Apple Union Square in SF: A new hangout signals future of Apple retail

On Thursday, Apple offered, in a sneak preview of its new Apple Union Square in San Francisco, a new direction for its retail stores.

Retail’s purpose is getting fuzzier with more and more online shopping. Despite Apple’ 480 stores in 17 countries, Apple’s biggest store is really in terms of visitors.

But there is a connection between physical stores and online shopping, said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores.angela2

With its new store, Apple is trying for something different: To create a town square feeling where people meet, listen to music or watch an artist create.

In its new store, Apple uses its iconic materials — glass, blonde wood tables, steel.

Impressively, the 42-foot high glass walls of the south side of the building open like shoji screens.

“We think of this as our largest product,” Ahrendts said.

The Genius Bar has been replaced with the Genius Grove, a calmer, more Zen place for getting one-on-one help.

Oh yeah, if you want to buy one of those watches, phones or tablets, they are on sale, too.

But the products, while showcased, recede into the background.appleunionsquare4

Something will always be going on at the store, Ahrendts said, whether it’s artists or photographers doing some work or musicians playing in the new public space in the back. The store has balconies and places for visitors to parade a bit and gawk.

appleunionsquare3That park will be open 24/7 with free WiFi and a 50-foot tall “green wall.”

“Anyone is invited at anytime,” Ahrendts said.

“This is not just a store,” she said. “We want people to say, ‘Meet me at Apple.’ ”

What else does this store need to be a true town center, other than a cafe and some cushions?

Something that would inject a bit of unpredictability. Something sensory that is truly new.

A sound bath? A sweat lodge?

But Apple Union Square is an interesting start.


Photos by Michelle Quinn/Mercury News


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  • Creighton Sneetly

    I just wish their latest software update hadn’t screwed up my iPhone!