Why Apple dominates the retail world – as told by its most knowledgeable fan (not me)

  • Opinion
  • October 22, 2015
  • Elly Strang
Why Apple dominates the retail world – as told by its most knowledgeable fan (not me)

If you haven’t heard of Gary Allen, he’s known worldwide as one of the biggest fans of Apple’s retail stores. He passed away this week from brain cancer at the age of 67.

Allen adored Apple, to the point of attending 140 of its store openings around the world.

Gary Allen

He’d hang out with other diehard fans in line who would hold spots for bathroom breaks, get food for one another and trade chargers, and he became something of an icon with staff.

Upon first reading about him, he seemed like that particular breed of middle-aged man that is very excited by gadgets and digital innovations.

A bit like my Dad, who owns over five variants of speakers, two iPads, a laptop, an iPhone, several cameras and an impressive array of torches, even thought he doesn’t know which one is the play button on the Sky remote.

But there’s something to be said for a brand that inspires that much of a cult following from a customer.

People like Allen show that Steve Job’s vision of Apple stores being a place worth seeking out has very much come to fruition. If you’ve got someone like Allen hanging out at your stores, surely you’re doing something right.

Allen paid very close attention to the details in which Apple crafted its stores: the materials used, the way products were displayed and the way staff were hired.

The insights he gained by closely scrutinising the retailer show how Apple made itself a world-class retailer.

"It’s not just about the products,” Allen said to Forbes. “Look at the way Apple hires. Look at the way Apple managers coach employees. Look at the whole picture."

Here are five lessons from Allen, about Apple.

1. Apple doesn’t specifically hire people with retail experience or a huge knowledge of tech, Allen says. Instead, it looks for people with the right attitude, who are enthusiastic about the product and can make the retail experience memorable for customers.
“Apple is not looking for people with vast experience and knowledge,” he said. “Apple is looking for a type. You do not need retailing or computer repair experience to be hired. You do, however, need passion, spirit, and a collaborative attitude.” Interestingly, a former Apple Store executive gleaned the knowledge that teachers made great employees because in the early 2000s, consumers needed to be educated on what computers could do. 

2. Allen noticed Apple is obsessive about the visual aesthetics of its stores, and its attention to detail and cleanliness were well documented on Allen's Twitter account. 

“If you’ve ever been to an Apple Store opening you’ll know how meticulous they are about cleaning the windows, the floors, and the shelving,” Allen pointed out to Forbes. “It’s almost to the point of being absurd.” But he said it works, as the stark, spacious stores have become iconic and unique to Apple. 

3. The reason Apple has been so successful is because it has created a community, Allen says.

Apple’s former senior VP of retail Ron Johnson said last year that just one of every 100 visitors makes a purchase when visiting a store. “The other 99 are presumably heading to the Genius Bar, checking out new products, retrieving their email, tagging along with friends or relatives, or attending a training session or live music event,” Allen said. “The stores have created communities of enthusiasts for everything that technology empowers, including art, music, writing, games and social networking.”

4. However, alongside building a community, Allen says the paying customers are looked after too.

"The stores have also created buyers who appreciate being able to see, handle and use the company’s products before handing over their money," he says. "It’s a combination that few other retailers have been able to duplicate." Experiencing palpable things will forever be the drawcard of the bricks and mortar, and Allen says Apple's hit the nail right on the head. 

5. Lastly, Allen says part of the reason Apple staff are so great is because there aren't commissions on its sales floors.

He would know, after all - he had a special bond with Apple's staff and regularly interacted with them worldwide. "It’s not all about closing the deal, it’s about building relationships between customers and the Apple brand," he says. "They know you’ll buy something eventually." As one salesperson explained to Forbes, staff make more money by getting promoted, and they get promoted by the results on customer-satisfaction forms. This means the salespeople value helping the customer out over pushing a sale.

Now for my Apple experience. A couple of years ago, I shattered the back of my iPhone screen and got the repair priced in New Zealand. I was gobsmacked to learn my phone would have to be sent away for four weeks at the hefty cost of $300. On a whim, I held out on getting it fixed and walked into an Apple store off the street while on holiday in the US. There, I was quoted US$30 for the repair. Stoked with the price but nervous about whether they could fix it in time, I explained I was only there for two weeks. "Not a problem!" The guy replied cheerily. He popped out back and replaced the screen within five minutes. 

If you tick all of the boxes Apple is ticking (incredibly friendly and efficient customer service, beautiful stores and building a community) maybe your company will find its Allen.

Allen sadly shut down his website that had all his insights earlier this year, but his posts live on at Forbes and on his Twitter account. View them here and here.

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Readings present revised plan for Courtenay Central

  • Property
  • May 16, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Readings present revised plan for Courtenay Central

The company that owns Courtenay Central in Wellington says it has big plans for redeveloping the complex - which is closed due to earthquake risks.

Read more

How to tell if you're a born retailer

  • Opinion
  • May 16, 2019
  • David Farrell
How to tell if you're a born retailer

Retail is a profession, but true retailers are born not made, says Dave Farrell.

Read more

Sustainable soap wrapper among major winners at Pride In Print Awards

  • Opinion
  • May 15, 2019
  • Sue Archibald
 Sustainable soap wrapper among major winners at Pride In Print Awards

A sustainable, heat sealed soap wrapper that is claimed to saving tonnes of PET plastic film, petrochemical wax and glue from landfill each year, has won a major award in the Pride In Print industry awards. Sue Archibald, Pride in Print Awards manager, shares more.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Inside Little Yellow Bird’s equity crowdfunding campaign

  • News
  • May 15, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Inside Little Yellow Bird’s equity crowdfunding campaign

Wellington social enterprise Little Yellow Bird is seeking to scale its ethical apparel operation to the next level with an equity crowdfunding campaign.

Read more

Auckland design agency wins gold for retail packaging

  • News
  • May 14, 2019
  • Courtney Devereux
Auckland design agency wins gold for retail packaging

As a benchmark for impeccably designed packaging of consumer products, The Dieline Awards this year saw creative agency Onfire walk away with recognition for fantastic design for their retail products. We spoke with Matt Grantham, creative director at Onfire Design, about the importance of a strong visual brand in the retail product sector.

Read more

BYO containers policy live from June 1 at Foodstuffs stores

  • News
  • May 14, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
BYO containers policy live from June 1 at Foodstuffs stores

Customers at Foodstuffs supermarkets’ instore butchery, seafood counter, delicatessen and bakery will be able to have food packed into their own clean, leak-proof containers from June 1.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit