Are Apple Stores going upmarket? Rumours abound after rare interview with Sir Jony Ive

New Yorker article suggests redesign will deter “tourists and truants”

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The Independent Online

Red carpet VIP areas and hi-tech displays for solid gold products could feature in a radical redesign of Apple Stores, in a bid to persuade Britons to part with their money and weed out “tourists and truants”.

Details of the move, which comes amid complaints over queues to get into Apple Stores, let alone book slots for help at its Genius Bars, are revealed in a rare interview with Sir Jonathan Ive, the company’s senior vice-president of design.

Sir Jony has teamed up with former Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts, who became Apple’s senior vice-president of retail last year, on a redesign of the Apple Stores which is yet to be officially announced.

The British-born designer, 47, has “always wanted to do luxury”, according to Clive Grinyer, a friend and former colleague.
Sir Jony, who has been with the company since 1996, is behind the look of some of the most iconic products in modern times, such as the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. Yet for all this, and despite being described by the late Steve Jobs as his “spiritual partner", he has described himself as “always anxious” in recent months. When it comes to Apple Stores, he has reason to be, for their popularity has dipped since they first opened in Britain more than a decade ago.

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Jonathan Ive, Apple senior vice-president of design (Getty)

Once Britain’s most favourite shop, Apple did not even make the top 10 in the latest annual high street survey from consumer group Which? Packed shops and people needing help or advice facing endless queues just to book an appointment at their Genius Bars have led to the stores falling out of favour.

 

The company is pinning its future fortunes on the Apple Watch, which will be available later this year, and starts at £217. It features a “digital crown” touchscreen and comes in a range of materials including black stainless steel, silver or grey aluminium and 18-carat gold.

Writing in next week’s edition of New Yorker magazine, Ian Parker reveals how he visited Sir Jony at his studio and caught a glimpse of “a glass-topped Apple Watch display cabinet, accessible to staff from below, via a descending, motorized flap, like the ramp at the rear of a cargo plane”.

Sir Jony’s solid-gold versions of the new product, the Apple Watch Edition, are expected to cost thousands of pounds each. Hinting at the upmarket look he is going for, the designer recalled overhearing someone saying: “I’m not going to buy a watch if I can’t stand on carpet.”

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Gold timing: the Apple Watch Edition

The encounter with Sir Jony left interviewer Ian Parker feeling that the new-look shops will “surely become a more natural setting for vitrines filled with gold (and perhaps less welcoming, at least in some corners, to tourists and truants)”.

But the drive to create special areas is counter to the simple and functional look which has made Apple one of the world’s biggest brands.

“I wondered how rational, and pure of purpose, one can make the design of a VIP area,” added Mr Parker.

As well as Ms Ahrends, other figures from luxury labels to have been poached by Apple in the past year or so, as it seeks to appeal to a more elite group of customer, include Paul Deneve, former chief executive of the Yves Saint Laurent Group, and Patrick Pruniaux, former vice-president of sales at TAG Heuer.

In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said: “We don’t have anything further to add to what was in the New Yorker article.”

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