Apple is known for their highly desirable line of consumer products, as well being known for situating their stores smacked right in high pedestrian traffic shopping districts in major cities. Despite selling their products in the Singapore market for over 20 years, Apple didn’t saw a need to enter the Singapore market by themselves, until now. This delay was largely attributed by the market saturated of third party middlemen “premium resellers” vendors here, such as Epicenter and Nubox, who made big money by filling in a gap between Apple and consumers here in Singapore during Apple’s absence.
Conservatively Looking there!
That changed with Apple’s own newest store along Orchard Road store at Knightsbridge Mall, it is situated adjacent to the Abercrombie and Fitch store and opposite the Mandarin Gallery. Despite being the biggest store dedicated solely to Apple products now (with over 230 employees), the Singapore store has to be one of the few more conservative-looking stores globally, no fancy glass architecture or elevator rising from the ground like the 5th Ave flagship/Chengdu store or expansive like a market place in Covert Gardens.
The two-storey store here opened on May 27 (at 10am, with long queues) and is also the first official Apple store in Southeast Asia. The shop is fully air-conditioned and spans over two floors. It took over the space left by a fitness gym tenant about 2 years ago, where construction had been ongoing since then, where the rumors of an Apple store opening first came about.
The Ground floor
The shop space was designed by DP architects. Taking on Apple’s clean design philosophy, the ground floor of the store is laid out in white ceilings, walls and floors, with long pine wooden tables showcasing their core products like the iPhone, all laid out in neat rows across the entire floor space. The walls of the store are lined by scores of Apple accessories, including those from Apple and approved third party manufacturers. All the devices here from the Macbook, iMac to iPad can be used for testing and demo purposes. In typical Apple store fashion, there is even active internet connection on all computers for ya Apple store surfers out there.
Castagna stone staircases and upper forum
Prominently flanking the side walls of the store are two Twin curved Castagna stone staircases, which are the architectural highlight of Orchard Road store, it starts off curving on the left, spiraling in a half-arc towards the second store level. The same philosophy of less is more still resonates on the upper floor, but with more vegetation. The upper floor is fresh, bright and airy, a surprising nice place to hang and chill out.
The store regularly conducts free hands-on educational sessions on topics of interest, examples of such topics when I was there includes photography, coding or even how to use your Mac or iOS devices, just check the schedules for updates. These sessions are conducted in a space called the Forum on the second level. A large LCD screen sits at the center of the forum with short wooden benches and break-out tables used for audience seating. Rows of potted plants and high chairs populate the remainder of the available space here.
No wonder the place is often packed, even on weekdays, where families and children will camp up here enjoying the air conditioning. Apple claims that the store runs off completely from renewable energy sources, with energy consumption reduced by abundant use of natural light.
The key user experience which differentiates third party resellers from the official store is the Apple Genius, comprising of the Genius bar, which serves as a training and concierge-style tech support station, where training and sharing sessions are taught to customers in-store. This is of course brought to you by the Genius staff themselves, which you can easily identify through in their iconic blue T-shirts.
Apple stores never fail to deliver a personalized unique retail experience; one which was meticulously conceived by Steve Jobs himself. Staff will greet you with a welcome upon your entry to the shop (and no, no klaxon sirens won’t sound when you enter the store with an Android or Windows device) and bring you on a tour of your product of interest. There are no cash register points in the store (in case you are wondering where to pay), with each staff member being a point of sale themselves. This offers a more personalized customer service which had been known to be more effective with sales, particularly when hawking consumers overpriced hardware.
The new Apple store will be quite an eye opener to anyone who had not been into an official store themselves. But Singapore authorized distributors over the years had tried to mimic the similar Apple feel, which is not too far off. Just don’t expect these third-party shops to start closing with Apple setting up shop right in their own neighborhood. The Apple pricing ecosystem is very strictly controlled, with each store having to retail at fixed recommended retail price to that even on the Apple online store. This ensures that stores do not undercut while competing with each other. The main difference here then will be the in-shop experience which the official store delivers best, only when it’s not clogged up with baby strollers and swarming with screaming kids and obvious parents hogging the displays.
The new Apple kid on the block will be here to stay, which is worth checking out less the crowd, for now, I will steer clear of the shop till the Singapore Apple store craze dies down. Who knows, maybe the lack of crowds may make premium resellers stores more attractive now. The Apple store opens daily, operating from 10am to 10pm, Monday to Sunday.