This article from Fortune makes good reading on how Apple succeeded:
The following includes extracts (in italics) from the article:
Compare the sales figures per square foot for the last 12 months of leading retailers (Source: Sanford C. Bernstein):
Best Buy: $930
Tiffany & Co: $2,666
How then did Apple, a novice retailer in 2001 succeed? What lessons does it hold for us?
1. To acknowledge the need to shift the approach in selling and then, to do something about it:
“The company was increasingly dependent on mega-retailers – companies that had little incentive, never mind training, to position Apple’s products as anything unique.” It was like, ‘We have to do something, or we’re going to be a victim of the plate tectonics. And we have to think different about this. We have to innovate here.'”
2. Search for the best, hire the experts:
“No. 1, I started asking who was the best retail executive at the time. Everybody said Mickey Drexler, who was running the Gap.”
Drexler joined Apple’s board. Jobs then hired Ron Johnson, who was then a merchandising chief at Target.
3. Build Prototypes:
‘Prototyping’ maybe an accepted practice in Design and Innovation. As Tom Kelley, in ‘the Art of Innovation’ says “Prototyping, brainstorming and observations. These are the fundamentals, the reading, writing and arithmetic of innovation.” Yet, how many companies do it across the organization.
Steve Jobs considered ‘Building a protype of the store’ as one the best pieces of advice he received.
“One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn’t work,” says Jobs.
In other words, design it as you would a product. (emphasis mine)
“Ron and I had a store all designed,” says Jobs, when they were stopped by an insight: The computer was evolving from a simple productivity tool to a “hub” for video, photography, music, information, and so forth. The sale, then, was less about the machine than what you could do with it. But looking at their store, they winced. The hardware was laid out by product category – in other words, by how the company was organized internally, not by how a customer might actually want to buy things. “We were like, ‘Oh, God, we’re screwed!'” says Jobs.
“So we redesigned it,” he says. “And it cost us, I don’t know, six, nine months. But it was the right decision by a million miles.” (emphasis mine)
How many organization give the required time while initiating projects? Most executives are fighting deadlines on multiple fronts!
4. Designing a store around consumer interests and not products
When the first store finally opened, in Tysons Corner, Va., only a quarter of it was about product. The rest was arranged around interests: along the right wall, photos, videos, kids; on the left, problems. A third area – the Genius Bar in the back – was Johnson’s brainstorm.
5. Set Standards with the “Best in the Industry”
“When we launched retail, I got this group together, people from a variety of walks of life,” says Johnson. “As an icebreaker, we said, ‘Tell us about the best service experience you’ve ever had.'” Of the 18 people, 16 said it was in a hotel. This was unexpected. But of course: The concierge desk at a hotel isn’t selling anything; it’s there to help. “We said, ‘Well, how do we create a store that has the friendliness of a Four Seasons Hotel?'” The answer: “Let’s put a bar in our stores. But instead of dispensing alcohol, we dispense advice.”
Can we do away with the obvious?
“Also missing, at the newest stores, anyway, is a checkout counter.”
“The system Apple developed, EasyPay, lets salespeople wander the floor with wireless credit-card readers and ask, “Would you like to pay for that?”
How many organizations are willing to experiment? To move away from the tried and tested?