Apple Retail Fans Line Up in front of Wrong Store


Abstract:
Actual store "most likely a Starbucks," say experts.

Body:
NEW YORK — Fans of Apple Computer, Inc.'s growing chain of its own retail stores are camping out in New York's Flatiron District ahead of an opening of a new store. Unfortunately for them, this new store is not owned by Apple, and most likely will not sell computers.

As of Friday, three people were lined up outside of a building on Fifth Avenue. The storefront is covered by a plywood facade, and sounds of construction can be heard from behind the barrier. John Slightman, a freelance programmer from Queens, says that he heard about the upcoming store from ifoAppleStore.com, a website completely dedicated to Apple's retail stores. According to the website, the upcoming Flatiron store was discovered when Apple posted a job listing for that location on its website. "Nobody knew the exact location [of the store]," said Slightman, "We just knew it was somewhere in Flatiron, so I started keeping my eyes open." According to Slightman, he determined that he had found the store when he noticed the plywood facade and observed construction workers entering who refused to say what they were building. Apple is known for its secrecy with unannounced products and even stores, so a secretive construction crew made sense to Slightman, who soon took his place as the coveted "first in line" for the store's opening.

After one of Slightman's friends mentioned the location on his blog, a couple from New Jersey, Alex Zandin and Kelly Paron, joined Slightman in line. They had only been waiting for about an hour when the location's destiny as an Apple Store came into question. Zandin explained, "[Slightman's] only reason for believing that this was the Apple Store was the fact that a contractor wouldn't tell him what the store was going to be. That's not exactly the equivalent of confirming that it's going to be an Apple Store."

Janice Alars, a retailing expert from the Brand It! consulting firm, could find no evidence that the location was in any way associated with Apple Computer or retail property lessors that it has leased from in the past. While she couldn't rule out the possibility of this being the site of the upcoming Flatiron Apple Store, she indicated that her research into the size, location, and value of the space indicates that the business it will house is most likely a Starbucks.

Despite the probability that they are waiting outside of the wrong store, the fans don't plan on moving anytime soon. "It's not about the store," Slightman suggests, "We're here for the experience. Mac users look at these openings as a chance to socialize and talk about how their lives mix with Apple. We've all been to an Apple Store before, and this one doesn't promise to be anything new. I doubt I will even buy anything on opening day."

When it comes to these Apple enthusiasts, even Gary Allen, webmaster of ifoAppleStore.com, is perplexed. "We've never seen anything like this," says Gary, "Someone camped out a couple of days before the Regent Street opening [in London], but that was the first European store, and it was huge. The people waiting in Flatiron don't even know when it's opening. They could be waiting for months."

Those outside of the Apple community find it hard to believe that people line up for every grand opening, especially since the stores will contain products that the fans have already seen. According to those waiting it out, the only material incentive for being first is a free t-shirt with the name of the store printed on it. Line up now, as t-shirt giveaways are usually limited to the first 1,000 customers.

Posted: Thursday - May 12, 2005 at 02:57 AM          


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