Apple launched its new retail location in New York's historic Grand Central Terminal on Friday, exactly at 10 a.m. as promised. 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 could easily be its busiest -- Grand Central Terminal experiences roughly 750,000 visitors each day and more than a million people during the holiday season. Despite the store's expansive space, Apple has a number of other ways it plans to keep its in-store crowds under control.
First of all, the new Apple Store is located in the former home of Metrazur, the restaurant owned by renowned chef Charlie Palmer, located in the Northeast corner of Grand Central. The store stretches across the balcony level overlooking the main concourse, but manages to avoid the ticketing area and train terminals. Commuters and travelers will likely bump elbows with some people on their way to the Apple Store, but the store's physical location ensures that lines for Apple and lines for trains stay separate.
The physical layout of the store will also keep crowds from forming by keeping products and services separate. The Apple Store in Grand Central offers rooms dedicated to some of our most popular services, including the largest area in the world dedicated to Personal Setup, the company said in a press release.
In the Personal Setup room, customers who buy an iPad, iPhone, iPod or Mac can get up and running before they leave the store. There's also a room designed especially for Personal Training, where new Mac owners can learn the basics or take their skills to the next level as part of Apple's popular $99 One to One program.
Apple has typically left its customer care areas, such as the Genius Bar, far away from the cash registers and product viewing areas, but giving dedicated rooms for these services ought to give more room for both the customers and the clients.
One particular challenge of the Apple Store in Grand Central would be figuring out how the commuters and the 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 Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) on this issue, but in the end, Apple of course 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. Customers feel better knowing they don't have to wait in long lines, and greater egress from the store means more customers will enter the store since it's less crowded. The Apple Store in Grand Central has 315 employees who can all help customers complete their purchases, which will also keep business moving. Apple, which is all about aesthetics, benefits by giving more room for its customers to take in their surroundings and play with the products.
Grand Central Terminal is already home to about 79 restaurants, retailers and banks, from Banana Republic to 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 Metrazur. (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 originally 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.
Apple currently has 358 stores worldwide.