Apple Town Squares: A smart move to lure modern startups

The new retail push is still depressing, though.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Apple's plans to transform its retail stores are focused less on showcasing products, and more on creating a loyal startup community endeared towards Apple products in the future.

On Tuesday, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores Angela Ahrendt took to the stage at the new Steve Jobs Theater to present "Town Squares," a retail concept focused on the community.

The iPad and iPhone maker, which also utilized the event to introduce the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, said the firm's new approach to retail will turn larger stores into not only a shop, but also an education center.

Reminiscent of the Apple's spaceship campus, the Town Squares will include a Genius Grove -- a redesigned Genius Bar -- a seasonally-shifting product display, lessons ranging from photography to kid's coding, and quiet areas dubbed "boardrooms" for startups to be trained in Apple products or simply "share and meet up," according to Ahrendt, as well as seating areas for casual conversation, greenery, and the occasional live music performance.

"Town Squares" will be built worldwide in the coming years, with the first due to open in Chicago in October this year.

The Apple executive said the new stores will become "gathering places," and you can see where Apple is going with the concept.

Should the real estate be available, the redesigned stores are designed to appeal for an increasingly mobile workforce, less tied to the office and involved in remote projects or the occasional meeting in a coffee shop.

Desk rentals, short-term office hire, and mobile workstation setups are all becoming part-and-parcel of the startup community, whether it be in the US, UK, or in other countries.

By proclaiming the Apple store, which is at its heart simply a retail shop and place you go when you've broken your screen, a "Town Square," the company may be attempting to tap into this kind of mobile working generation by luring them with everything from seating to fauna and music.

Corporations want to increase footfall. The more eyeballs you secure, the more likely you are to sell and profit.

Eye-burning neon signs, "flash" sales, and gimmicky mascots -- among countless other techniques -- have been used by retail firms for decades, and it makes sense for Apple to want to appeal to those interested in gadgets, in business, and in the look of Apple products rather than attempting to sell by volume for marginal profit.

These kinds of consumers, at least in the West, are representative of dollar signs. However, the "Today at Apple" workshops also have a part to play.

Offering training and courses -- using Apple products, of course -- can also pave the way for younger consumers to learn about and ultimately want, the company's offerings.

The name "Town Square" may result in some eye rolling and does seem a rather pretentious, but all it does is highlight how ingrained consumerism is in today's society.

Everything from apparently "public" parks to health services to tourist facilities is often privately owned, and Apple is simply making such a concept abundantly clear.

A dozen things Steve Jobs would hate about Apple today

Town squares were once and still are to some extent, meeting places for the public. However, many areas are anything but corporation agnostic nowadays, with the public now constantly exposed to company adverts on screens, vehicles, and posters, all of which are vying for our time, our money, and our loyalty.

Local councils swallow up these lands to cater for housing demand, the local green is no longer a community area, and public spaces are becoming few and far between in many cities.

One day, the only public spaces to speak of in urban environments could be those offered by companies to advertise their wares. It might be somewhat depressing and self-congratulatory on Apple's part, but this kind of culture is here to stay -- and by offering a meeting area for startups and mobile workers to frequent should Starbucks be too busy, Apple is likely to profit.

Previous and related coverage:

Closer look at Apple's iPhone X, iPhone 8 (pictures)

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