And so another Apple Store has been gifted to Shanghai from the Priory of Cupertino, and it delivers much the same aesthetic system and retail experience that consumers have come to expect from Apple Inc. There is the extensive use of curved glass, the patented spiraled staircase, the Genius Bar, and the brushed silver alloy paneling. The storefront is textless, adorned only with the ubiquitous giant luminescent White Macintosh Apple that dangles from a thick rod support. And spread throughout the store are the glowing ad-boards of immaculate persons framed above rows of neatly-spaced gadgets.
The largest in China, the new East Nanjing Road location is the third Apple Store in Shanghai, and the fifth nationwide. Replete with the same products and accessories available at most Apple Stores worldwide (variation does occur: the iPad 2 3G was just released in China today, trailing other markets by six months), the new Nanjing Road Apple Store will feature plenty of personal attention from its in-house staff, so that a visit with the royal blue-shirted Apple Helpers will mean anyone who hasn’t already swallowed the Mac Gospel will be ready to click around their new OSX desktop with a measure of familiarity.
The store has an unmistakable air of importance, and its location at the end of the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street is only one aspect of it (if Nanjing Dong Lu is a Yellow-Brick Road, then the new Apple Store is its Oz). The most striking thing about its design is the fact that its main retail floor has a roof four stories above the counters and tables laden with flickering iProducts. The impressive roof height, along with the grey stone blocks stacked along the walls (they help with insulation), make the new Store resemble nothing so much as an arch-less church for the forthcoming droves of Apple apostles.
Though it’s quite counter-intuitive to have only two floors in a five-story building, it’s the sort of move that Apple as a company makes on a regular basis (remember the initial befuddlement over the first iPad?). The roof, and the typical spareness of the new location will mean any Nanjing Road tourist (especially the kind that take pictures of unimpressive statues) will be witness to quite the unusual retail space when they visit the Store.
After all, in a country like China (and especially in its tourist traps), where cramped density is the most common utilization of space, a minimalist building like the new Store stands out.
But the most significant thing to us about the new location, much more so than its height or the sleek baubles on offer inside its sanctum, is the fact that the store’s main floor is completely visible from outside. Quite the contrast to the Apple Store near the IFC Mall, which (along with New York’s famous Ka’ba-like Apple Store on Fifth Avenue) might be more accurately described as an Apple Bunker.
The open aspect of the Store is perfectly conducive to rubbernecking, and it will be quite the dispassionate Nanjing Road shopper who doesn’t feel the urge to have a gander inside when they approach the radiant light of the Great White Logo. The location and design of the store will mean that tourists will have a new destination in Shanghai, and that no visit to Nanjing Road and the Bund will be complete without getting a few strokes and taps in on the latest thingamabob.
Though for most Chinese, like the ones desperate enough to sell their internal organs to have Angry Birds in their life, owning a Mac or an iPhone will still remain a remote possibility, and a trip to the Apple Store will mean perusing objects as out of reach as the roof that’ll be high above their heads, as they click, tap, pinch and swipe at the expensive stuff of dreams.