The inimitable Horace Dediu has run the numbers and it’s clear: Apple is great at retail and, over the past five years, the company created 35,852 retail jobs. NYT hit pieces notwithstanding, it’s clear that Apple is getting things right when it comes to retail sales.
Dideu’s numbers show us two things. First, Apple is filling their floor space with people and, in turn, hiring more retail employees. Second, Apple stores are more about being the front line for Mac advertising rather than a true retail experience. After all, Apple has essentially stripped down almost everything about the Apple Store. There there few third-party items and plenty of open tables covered in laptops tilted just so. As Dediu writes, “Steve Jobs once said that Apple no longer had to be present at trade shows because they have millions of conversations with their customers every day through their stores. These conversations happen with the retail staff.”
So that’s where all the people are and that’s why Apple made 36,000 retail jobs. They’re all acting as representatives for one of the best known brands in the world and, more importantly, they’re doing a surprisingly good job. However, it took years for this strange symbiosis to truly gel and it is this strange system – retail plus online plus a fan base so broad that Apple’s pronouncements often hold the force of law – that few tech companies can duplicate.