Apple’s former retail chief Ron Johnson— the man in charge of retail when Apple first launched its brick and mortar stores back in 2001— recently sat down for a talk at Stanford where he gave some insight into the work that went into Apple’s original retail efforts. After a brief intro on his work before Apple, RoJo eventually gets into Apple retail stores, working with Steve Jobs, and the decision to redesign the Apple retail store experience at the last minute.
The thing I remember from Steve is you have to be willing to start again. We were launching the stores and one day he came up with the idea of the digital hub… The next week we were going to our weekly store meeting, we were designing the store…. I said Steve Ive been thinking and I think the store is organized all wrong… we’ve organized it like a retail store around products… the store should be organized on music and movies and things you do…
He also gives some insight into the decisions Apple made with its original retail store experience. For example, the ability to attract customers by offering high-speed internet connected display units for its Macs was something most others weren’t doing at the time.
There’s so many reasons to come… you can get help, you can bring the kids and play at the kid table, you can learn, you can surf the internet, check your mail… when we launched the Apple Stores, guess what percent of people had broadband or high speed internet in the US? 3 percent… no one had ever seen a high-speed internet.. I said Steve this is going to make Apple computers seem really good because they are going to come try the internet and they’ll think they are fast. We created a place for communities to form where people could check their email and experience the Mac.
The rest of the interview is an interesting watch with Johnson telling many stories about lessons learned at Apple and his time working with Jobs. “When I started working with him he said Ron If you don’t mind I really want to not be an employee I want to be a friend… He had this intense way of developing these close relationships and the first time we met we talked for 2 or 3 hours… Through the years Steve and I would talk most days on the phone… The most misunderstood thing about Steve is that he’s the best delegator I’ve ever met.”