By I. A. D. (Uni Of Abdn)
Apple Inc. Retail Store
This report examines an Apple Retail store from an operations management perspective while also exploring some of the company’s strategies. It points out that Apple retail stores are a special breed when compared to the competition, combining good service and retail practices, in an original way, in order to achieve success. Finally, it recommends Apple’s business model as an exemplary approach to retailing electronics, which should be used by more companies.
Apple Inc. is an American multinational corporation established in 1976 with headquarters in Cupertino, California. It designs, develops and sells electronics, such as multimedia players (i.e. iPod), tablet PC’s (i.e. iPad), laptops, fixed computers and also software for all of these devices. It employs approximately 80000 people worldwide (Apple, 2014) and makes use of 423 retail stores (ifo Apple Store, 2014) to market its products. It is well known for the innovativeness and the unique, sleek design of its products. Its retail stores are no exception, being significantly different from those of its competitors, especially in terms of aesthetics and design. This report will focus on describing and analysing aspects of one of Apple’s retail stores, based in Aberdeen, in the Union Square mall. This analysis will include the characteristics of the operation, the layout and flow, the performance objectives, the order winners and qualifiers and finally a few observations and opinions.
2. Characteristics of the operation
Operations can be conveniently distinguished by four characteristics: Volume, Variety, Variation and Visibility (Slack et al., 2010). The volume of the Apple store retail operation is in some aspects high and in some aspects low. Given the premium priced products, and the highly customised customer experience, one would assume that the volume is low. However, when compared to other similarly sized electronics stores such as Curry’s PC World in the St. Nicholas Centre, although the number of products sold is comparatively lower, the two pure service aspects of the Apple store (i.e. The Genius Bar and the Personal Training desks – further explained in the following paragraphs) increase the overall output of the operation. Still, these Apple stores are notorious for handling huge numbers of customers on product launch dates and this is possibly achieved by the relatively numerous staff present in the store at all times. The average Apple Store in the USA employs over 100 people (Apple, 2014). Also, the development of EasyPay, which is basically a self-checkout system, points to the fact that high volumes of customers (and purchases) are often expected. It is difficult coming up with a definite classification for this operation in terms of volume, however, medium volume would probably best describe it, if taking into account all of the aforementioned particularities. The process variety in this retail operation is high when compared to other similar outlets. Aside from selling physical goods, the store also offers two separate support areas for customers, thus having a significantly higher observed service element than the competition. As can be seen in Figure 2.1, aside from the many product displays, there are “Personal training” tables, where customers paying an annual subscription fee benefit from specialized guidance on how use/make the most out of their devices. Another free support service is available by reservation at the Genius Bar, where technicians will help with any issue related to an Apple product. In Apple retail stores both physical products and customers can be considered transformed resources. Although the product variety is lower in an Apple store than in similar multi-brand electronics stores, the overall process variety is definitely higher. The variation of this operation is high on a weekly basis and also on a...
References: A. Greasley (2009) Operations Management, 2nd edition, Wiley.
N. Slack, S. Chambers and R. Johnston (2010) Operations Management, 6th edition, Prentice Hall.
Apple (2014) Creating jobs through innovation. [Online] Available from: http://www.apple.com/about/job-creation/. [Accessed: 1st March 2014].
ifo Apple Store (2014) Apple store chronology 2013-2014. [Online] Available from: http://www.ifoapplestore.com/apple-store-chronology-2013-2014/. [Accessed: 1st March 2014].
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