What was to become the world’s most successful chain of retail stores – generating more revenue per square foot than even luxury stores like Harrods and Tiffany & Co. – might have been opened as long ago as 1976, if Apple had agreed a proposal made by Silicon Valley marketing guru Regis McKenna.
CNET reports that he made the proposal in December 1976, after meeting with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Jobs and McKenna had dinner and talked about what the future of Apple could look like, and McKenna signed on. Eventually McKenna drafted an eight-page marketing plan in December 1976. Lo and behold, what was written under “Distribution Channels”? Apple stores.
The plan would have seen the first stores in office parks, aimed primarily at business customers. Apple decided not to go ahead at the time, and it would be 25 years later, in 2001, that the first Apple Store opened.
As astonishing as it seems now, that decision was viewed as a risky gamble. BusinessWeek ran a piece called Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work, and TheStreet described the move as “desperate” in a story headlined Apple’s Scrapping the Bottom of the Barrel.
That’s not to say that the stores, back in 1976, would have been successful especially through the late 80s and 90s with the lack of taste at the top.