Apple is preparing to make significant changes to its stores to simplify the experience by relocating iPod stock to accessory shelves and removing iPad-based Smart Signs, according to several Apple Retail managers briefed today on the plans. Apple will begin rolling out these notable changes overnight on Tuesday of next week to stores in the United States so that customers who begin coming in on Wednesday see the refreshed look.
Typically reserved for accessories like Apple Watch bands, headphones, and iPhone cases, Apple Store accessory walls will now be home to the recently-updated iPod line. Apple products, ranging from iPods to iPads to Macs, have typically been stored in the back of Apple Stores and brought to a customer upon the point of sale. Now, when a customer wants to buy an iPod, she or he can simply pull it off a shelf without needing to wait for the product to be brought from the back room.
Once a major product category for Apple, and one of the key reasons behind the company’s reemergence throughout the 2000s, the iPod now no longer gets the same annual update treatment as the Mac, iPad, and iPhone and is no longer given the same purchase experience as Apple’s main money-making hardware. Over the course of the past several months, Apple has also demoted the presence of the iPod on its online website and store.
In addition to the change to iPod sales, Apple is making a significant alteration in how customers can research product details and prices. In mid-2011 as part of an “Apple Store 2.0″ initiative, Apple replaced thick paper signs and poster boards with pricing information with iPad 2 displays loaded with details of products in the Apple Store. In most stores, an iPad 2 has sat next to each Mac, iPad, and iPhone in the store with the relevant information.
With this Apple Store refresh next week, Apple will be pulling these aging iPad 2s from most of its stores. Instead of Smart Signs, Apple will begin pre-loading price information and product details onto display iPhones, iPads, and Macs themselves. Apple will use the new space to install more devices that potential customers can test on the show floor. The recently launched iPad mini displays for the Apple Watch will not be going away. Apple will also showcase iPhones with redesigned white display docks.
Some larger Apple Stores will retain a few Smart Signs as Apple conducts this transition. Sources say that, beyond the desire to feature more products on store tables and to replace the aging iPad 2s, Apple is removing Smart Signs because it found that the setup is confusing for some customers. Retail employees note that some customers were unaware that the Smart Signs were simply informational items and became confused when they could not fully use the device as a demo iPad.
These changes are just a few of many that have reached the Apple Store over the last few months. In July, Apple began displaying accessories from key partners in new Apple-designed packaging, while the company also recently re-organized its stores with a focus on displaying the Apple Watch. Since launching the new Apple Watch tables in April, Apple has improved the process by dropping the in-store appointment requirement. Retail chief Angela Ahrendts and Jony Ive have also been working on a larger Apple Store revamp, which can already be seen at the New York Upper East Side store.
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