Apple Union Square

TUCSON, Ariz. — Apple Inc. continues to focus on community and culture as it works to revamp its stores, shifting to its new town square concept.

That the technology company has eradicated the word “store” out of its lexicon is not simply a marketing gimmick but best shows how it’s looking at its version of the next-generation store.

“We took the word store out of the title of everything,” said Apple senior vice president of retail and online stores Angela Ahrendts. “It’s called Apple Union Square. Apple Covent Garden. It’s not a store anymore. What they do is so much more than what a store does.”

Ahrendts, who was on a family vacation, stopped in to speak on the final day of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing’s annual Global Retailing Conference, which capped Friday.

For Apple, the town square concept is carried throughout its retail stores with avenues for where the accessories are organized, a forum area with seating for entertainment, classes, a refined stockkeeping unit count and new creative pro positions at the store dedicated to teaching customers about various products.

The latter, which allows for online sign-ups, is being piloted at 54 stores and will be launched shortly, Ahrendts said.

From an internal perspective, the company also sees its retail points of distribution as another product in much the same way it views an iPhone or iPad.

“The architecture of our store is the hardware. The inside of the store, the experience, is the software,” Ahrendts said of how she relayed her broader vision to Apple’s overall workforce.

Ahrendts, who joined Apple from Burberry, said she logged travel to more than 150 of the company’s stores in her first year.

“You see what a hub, what a beacon, [the stores] are,” she said. “It’s not just to sell stuff. They already are a gathering place.”

The company counts nearly 500 stores worldwide, which account for 0.2 percent of the company’s distribution. Of those 500, 267 are located in the U.S.

The company is in the midst of replacing old stores with the new concept at a rate of about 30 to 35 a year as store leases expire. In some cases, those replacement doors represent a doubling or tripling in store size.

“We’re going as fast as we can,” Ahrendts said of the shift to the town square store concept.

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