Former Apple SVP Ron Johnson Recounts Early Days of Apple Retail Stores

Discussion in 'Mac Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson spoke earlier this year at his alma mater Stanford University and talked about the early years of Apple retail stores (via ifoAppleStore). Johnson oversaw the development of the Apple Store and is credited with creating the company's distinctive retail experience.

    After joining Apple in 2000, Johnson was given complete control over the company's retail project by then-CEO Steve Jobs. The first Apple Stores featured high-speed Internet connections to attract new customers and were originally designed to create a sense of community among Apple users, not necessarily sell products.
    Johnson joined Apple as Senior Vice President of Retail Operations in January 2000 and remained in that role until 2011, when he departed for a CEO position at J.C. Penney. Under his leadership, Apple's retail operations exploded, generating over a $1 billion in annual sales within two years and eventually leading all U.S. retailers in terms of monetary sales per square foot.

    Johnson was succeeded by Dixons' John Browett, who served as Apple's retail chief for a short seven months. Apple's retail operations, which now include 425 retail stores in 16 countries worldwide, are now under the leadership of former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, who joined Apple earlier this year. Ahrendts is best known for her transformation of Burberry from a struggling retailer into a global fashion powerhouse.

    Article Link: Former Apple SVP Ron Johnson Recounts Early Days of Apple Retail Stores
  2. macrumors 6502


    May 7, 2009
    Which part of the 50 minute video does he talk about this?

    Edit: about 18:40
  3. macrumors 65816

    Oct 9, 2012
    "The first Apple Stores featured high-speed Internet connections to attract new customers and were originally designed to create a sense of community among Apple users, not necessarily sell products."

    This and amazing products made Apple store visits wonderful. I seldom left without making a purchase. Now I avoid the Apple store. If I want a hard sell environment with verbal misrepresentations there are always used car lots to visit.
  4. macrumors regular


    Jun 12, 2008
    What Apple store are you visiting? I've experienced nothing like that.....ever.
  5. macrumors 65816

    Oct 9, 2012

    I visit the store nearest my home. It was not always this way. There has been an unfortunate turn. I'll give you an example.

    Several months ago I stopped in and looked at the iPad Air. A salesperson approached and asked if I had questions. I only had one. How much memory on the Air.

    His response "I don't know." I asked him to find someone in the store who had the info. "No one here knows. Nobody knows. Even Apple doesn't know".

    I thanked him and left. This store needs a new manager or Apple needs a CEO.
  6. dauby88, Jul 9, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014

    macrumors member

    Sep 19, 2013
    Cincinnati, OH
    I assume you were asking about RAM, and not SSD memory. Apple doesn't publish how much RAM is in their iOS devices. Only people who read rumor sites would know such an answer so I don't think the salesperson's response was as awful as you're making it out to be. That would have been the response any time you entered any Apple store selling iOS devices. Same if you asked about processor speed.

    Whether you think Apple should make RAM (or clock speed) an important spec when selling their iOS devices is another topic, but thinking the store salespeople are terrible because they only discuss specs that Apple releases is silly.
  7. macrumors newbie

    Jul 9, 2014
    Umm, not really an example of a hard sell. And arguably it isn't misinformation either. Although, saying that APPLE doesn't know it is probably not really accurate, it is try that they generally don't publish this information and it requires someone to tear it down and discover this.
  8. macrumors member

    Aug 8, 2008
    Seriously, Apple stores have changed (hate to say it.. but seems around when Steve died).

    In the past, I always felt comfortable walking into an Apple store and would only asked once if I needed help. This was great, because it was a relief from walking into Best Buy for example, where you have some fly buzzing around you non-stop "do you need help with something?".

    Often times I walk into an Apple store for no reason at all, usually when the wife is shopping and I get an excuse to escape picking out girly clothes- to simply admire the iPad i've already seen 20 times that I don't have yet.

    Maybe it's all in my head, but it really seems they've pushed employees to be up your ass a little bit more over the years and feels a bit corporate. This makes me less excited to stop in.
  9. macrumors 68020

    Apr 2, 2008
    That was a poor way to go about it. He could've Google'd it or asked someone. He does not represent all of Apple though... If you had that same experience multiple times I would understand. You just happened to get the lazy jerk.

    Customers complain that they didn't get approached or were confused when needing to be rung up for an item. That's why the employees ask people if they need help or have questions.

    Apple employees are still friendly and welcoming. There were negative employees in 2008/2009 and there are negative employees now... Apple does have a lot more employees and stores today than it did when Steve was alive and healthier, but there are amazing interactions still happening at the stores.
  10. macrumors 65816

    Oct 9, 2012
    I was asking about memory not storage.
  11. macrumors regular


    Nov 3, 2011
    Milky Way Galaxy
  12. macrumors 65816

    Oct 9, 2012
    I've visited the local Apple store many times over the years. The environment has changed significantly. They want you to buy each time you walk in. The press for an iPhone sale.

    I made many incidental purchases just because I was in the area and dropped in. Now I avoid the store. It's not fun. I don't like sales pressure.

    Any time I dropped in and was not planning an immediate purchase I made that known to the person who greeted me. I don't like to waste peoples time. When I was there just to play with demos I was honest that it was my reason to be there. I didn't want to take up a reps time when other customers may need help.

    Many of those visits did result in a sale or a sale in the immediate future.

    I visit one store. I am only presenting my experience. The store has changed.

    Last summer I made purchase from with a store pickup. They let me know that they were not pleased about the online purchase. Wanted me to buy at the retail store. The item was refurbished.

    The store you visit may be like this one was a few years ago. I hope it is.
  13. macrumors 68020

    Apr 2, 2008
    Hmm I'm confused. You did a Personal Pickup and the employee told you they were not happy that you purchased online?

    And sales pressure? They don't pressure you Lol. Apple products can sell themselves...

    Something isn't adding up.
  14. macrumors 65816

    Oct 9, 2012

    Yes. I was made aware that the purchase should be made at that retail location.

    If they don't pressure in the store you visit good for you.

    I'm finished with this topic. It's obvious that some people here think each and every retain store is the same. Any location of any retail store is only as good as the GM. Apple is no exception
  15. macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2011
    Vilano Beach, FL
    Yeah, funny enough, this same exchange, with the same user occurred in a different thread - even funnier, I was going to reply in that thread, selected the posts (see below), and never did, however, they were still in my “quote buffer” :D

    I edited out some of the slightly abrasive parts, because I don’t think it’s appropriate to say the user is fabricating things, however, it does seem like a strange situation that’s way outside of the retail experience [most?] other folks seem to have (most specifically in terms of high pressure sales tactics). Quoting my own post too since I’ve been to several stores along the US east coast.

    I guess YMMV. ;)

  16. macrumors 6502a

    NY Guitarist

    Mar 21, 2011
    My typical Apple retail store experience is positive, with a few sticking points.

    The salespeople tend to be friendly and relatively low-key, I'm convinced this is exactly what Apple wants and chooses and trains staff to that end. While out walking I often stop at my local store to jump on wifi and check email and no one has ever made me feel bad about that, in fact they encourage it.

    On the other hand, when I do get into conversations with staff I usually find a distinct lack of anything more than basic product knowledge, especially when it come to slightly older, yet highly functional and relevant products. I'm not saying they need to know everything about everything, but I get the feeling that they hire based on how charming and enthusiastic a person is, and that often translates into very young and inexperienced employees. If you have a recent device, say 1-3 years old, there's a really good chance you've had it longer than the salesperson has worked at Apple, and may have more product knowledge than they have.

    Look around an Apple store next time you're there and you'll see a overwhelming majority of the people on the floor look 18-24 years old, the perfect age to sell iGadgets to first time customers.

    That may work well for selling the latest products and requires little to no knowledge of Apple product history but I wonder how repeat customers, especially older loyal customers, feel about having more experience than the sales staff.
  17. macrumors 68040

    Jun 12, 2005
    Louvre Apple store was a frequent stop by when I was always waiting for my train. I'd just go in and sit, take out my MBP and browse the internet for hours in the corner.
  18. macrumors newbie

    Jul 9, 2014
    That does not sound like fun. I can say that I very infrequently visit the nearest apple store to me, it has probably been 3-4 months since I was there. Locally, I have not experienced this, I hope this is more of a localized thing where maybe the local manager is pressuring for increased sales an not a general apple shift in protocol.
  19. macrumors 68030

    Nov 13, 2011
    They're probably the same ones who don't know how to call a waiters attention when needed; writing and spreading bad service reviews afterwards.
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 26, 2003
    Apple store people aren't really salespeople, in the way that most people think of salespeople. They're supposed to be a low-cost version of this:

    However, there are always people who are off the reservation, or get sales advice from other people. And let's face it, if you can really understand someone's use cases after a few minutes you should be paid more. But overall Apple scaled its stores pretty well, from what I've seen.
  21. macrumors 6502


    May 15, 2006
    Orlando, FL
    I just hate going to the Apple Store these days because it's usually crowded beyond all reason. It's crazy.

    Plus the whole 'you must make an appointment to see a genius' thing really rubbed me the wrong way. Something as simple as getting earbuds replaced because the controls died takes about 2 minutes of their time, yet they will boot me out without an appointment (even on light days). It's also difficult to look at products when there's a million people in the store cramming into all the displays. Ugh.

    I miss the old days where you could go in there and browse for hours at all the goodies, when it was busy but not nuts. These days, I just buy all my stuff from either the Apple online store or Best Buy.
  22. macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2005
    Never thrown out without appoinment.

    They always put me in the queue and sure I might have to wait a little bit to a half hour depending on the complexity of my need. An exchange for an accessory is the quickest
  23. macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2003
    Great video and worth taking the time to watch. Ron had a huge impact on Apple.

    Angela Ahrendts has some big shoes to fill, but I look forward to seeing what she can do.
  24. macrumors 68020

    Apr 2, 2008
    Precisely .
  25. macrumors 6502a


    Dec 24, 2009
    They literally said Apple doesn't even know how much memory is in the iPad Air... yes that is a very idiotic response.

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