Apple will finally launch its new retail location in New York's historic Grand Central Terminal on Dec. 9 at 10 a.m., according to a company e-mail sent to customers Monday. The 23,000-square-foot store, located at 45 Grand Central Terminal, is one of the biggest Apple Stores yet, and the second largest in the world after the company's 25,000 square-foot Regent Street location in London. Apple's fifth Manhattan location will also likely be its busiest -- Grand Central Terminal experiences roughly 750,000 visitors each day and more than a million people during the holiday season - but the historic train terminal is the perfect home for Apple's business.
Steve Jobs, the late Apple founder, lived his life at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and embodied his company with that same spirit. Jobs wanted Apple to strike a perfect balance of engineering and creativity, and everything Apple has ever created, from its computers to its mobile devices to its retail stores, has accomplished that.
Opening an Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal could easily be the company's finest hour.
Grand Central is littered with history. Like Apple, New York's century-old train station is covered in art, built for luxury, and riddled with secrets. From the walls to the ceilings, Grand Central boasts several cool feats of engineering. Look no further than the perfect acoustics of the Grand Central Whispering Gallery, right near the Oyster Bar & Restaurant in the dining concourse, or the hidden network of passageways that slither underneath the terminal.
Rather than transform any part of Grand Central's storied history into another Silicon-covered retail store, Apple opted to work around the architecture to create an outlet that fused Apple's clean look with the beauty of Grand Central Terminal. Tables and chairs resemble the train station's sepia stones, while soaring ceilings and bright chandeliers give the space a luxurious feel.
As Jobs always wanted, the Grand Central Apple Store location was kept under wraps during the development stages. In the planning stages, Apple prohibited MTA officials from commenting on Apple's courtship attempts to become Grand Central's newest renter.
One particular challenge of the new store would be figuring out how Grand Central commuters and Apple customers would coexist during new product releases, where lines have been known to stretch several city blocks. Apple worked with the New York Police Department and the MTA on this issue, but in the end, Apple invented its own crowd control solution: Of course, it came in the form of an app.
Apple believes its new Apple Store iOS app, currently available only in the U.S., will help cut down on foot traffic within its physical stores by allowing customers to place and pick up orders within the application, and also give customers the ability to perform self-checkout. Once you find the items you want to purchase, just boot up the app from any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, and you will see an option to purchase the product in the store. The iOS device then scans the items with the camera, and then you just click purchase and charge whatever credit card is on your Apple ID. Then, you're free to leave the store.
The new Apple Store app also allows customers to order in-stock products and pick them up at the retail store about 12 minutes after the order is completed. It takes about three minutes for the order to enter the system at the designated Apple Store, two minutes for Apple employees to set the ordered products aside, and then a seven-minute grace period for employees to get all of the materials in order. After that, customers will be able to walk right up to the counter, sign for their order and leave. No more lines, no more registers.
If the customer's desired product isn't in stock, such as a custom computer or specific accessory, Apple will send the customer a designated pick-up date as soon as the purchase is completed through the app. The product is shipped to a nearby Apple Store for free, and once it arrives, Apple will send a push notification to the user's phone via the new Apple Store app to let them know it's ready for pick-up.
The app is convenient for customers, but it's a slam dunk for Apple. The app effectively sets the bar even higher for all other retailers, by making the check-out process simple and fast. Customers feel better knowing they don't have to wait in long lines. And Apple, which is all about aesthetics, benefits from smaller crowds in its stores, making more room for other customers to take in their surroundings. The app couldn't come at a better time, with the ornate Grand Central Apple Store ready to open on Dec. 9.
Grand Central Terminal is already home to about 79 restaurants, retailers and banks, from Banana Republic to Michael Jordan's steak house, cleverly called Michael Jordan's The Steak House. The Apple Store is a great fit for Grand Central demographics-wise, where the majority of visitors to the station are slightly older, college-educated men. About 70 percent of all Grand Central Station passengers have a household income exceeding $100,000.
Apple signed 10-year lease with the MTA, which will cost the company about $800,000 per year, almost $500,000 more than the rent paid by the former occupant of the space, Charlie Palmer's Metrazur restaurant. (Apple also paid Metrazur $5 million to vacate the location early.) The cost of the location is balanced out by the fact that Apple does not need to share any revenue with the MTA; also, between the train station's heavy foot traffic and Apple's global prominence, the Grand Central location could very well be the company's anchor retail store.
Apple kept quiet about the Grand Central location until Dec. 1, when it updated the digital façade outside the blocked-off store to read, Apple Store, Grand Central. Arriving Friday, December 9.
Many hoped Apple would open the location in time for Black Friday, but when it didn't, Manhattan simply took to the four other Apple Store locations in the city, in SoHo, on Fifth Avenue, on the Upper West Side, and on West 14th Street.
The Apple Store in Grand Central promises to open at exactly 10 a.m. Friday. Apple Store openings have traditionally been big events in the Mac community, causing lines to form in the early morning or sometimes the night before the store opens. Apple has previously given away t-shirts and lucky bags to the first customers in the store. The opening will surely be a big event, since the store is also the first to open since Jobs passed on Oct. 5. But between the Apple's current line of products and the architectural achievements of the store, there will be much to celebrate.
Apple currently has 357 stores worldwide. The Grand Central location is No. 358.