My father often calls Apple Store, “the Apple company”, so it with some amusement that I read MacRumors’s rare case of good reporting where they show a lot of evidence that Apple is in the process of dropping the “store” moniker from their Apple Store locations.
The next day, John Gruber linked to it and added:
The “Store” branding only made sense when the concept was novel. Now that Apple’s stores are well established, it makes sense to drop the “Store”. Think about the brands that are Apple’s peers in retail. No one goes to the Tiffany Store or Gucci Store, they just go to Tiffany or Gucci.
This is a classic example of taking good reporting and diminishing it with thoughtless punditry and fanboyism—it must be a good move because Apple did it. In the end, the reader is left worse off than if the link was provided without comment.
If I hadn’t read the article the day before, I’d probably take Gruber’s analysis at face value. But if you take a half second to think of his value add, you see he subtracts value with a clear falsehood. For while Tiffany and Gucci stores are referred to as “Tiffany’s” and “Gucci” respectively, that isn’t always the case. Garmin are known colloquially as “Garmin Stores” as is the “Nike Store.” Levi Strauss & Company, a brand that is over a hundred and fifty years old and is synonymous with the ubiquitous American blue jean, officially refers to their stores as “Levi’s® Stores” as does Microsoft which, unlike the others, goes so far as to put “store” in their URL and happens to be in the same consumer space as Apple.
Sony’s stores were called “Sony Stores” back when it was an Apple competitor and still had retail locations as did the “Gateway country stores” and the “Dell Direct stores.” In fact, in the consumer electronics retail space it is actually more common to keep the “store” moniker than not!
And if you don’t question that it is just as valid to keep a “Store” in your store as not, you don’t think to question why Apple would make this move. What is the difference between the companies that formally or informally keep “Store” in their stores and those that do not?
I posit that the answer is that brands that have “stores” typically do the bulk of their sales outside their stores. Yes, you can buy Starbucks outside a Starbucks store, but because most of the time you’re at Starbucks when you get a Starbucks coffee, there’s no need to refer to their ubiquities locations as “stores.” The same can’t be said of Garmin, Nike, Levi’s, Microsoft, etc.
Does this mean that with this move that Apple is trying to push sales of their products away from Walmart, Best Buy, and AT&T toward their eponymous stores? Not necessarily because the reason Steve Jobs created “Apple ‘Stores'” in the first place was because the Apple brand identity was being harmed by a very un-apple like retail experience. Dropping “Store” could simply mean that Apple’s retail locations have officially grown out of that phase of their business to encompass more.
But perhaps not. After all, just two years ago Apple launched the iPhone Upgrade Program, just two weeks ago when I purchased my iPad Pro, the Apple Store employee had a long discussion with me of the changes in the AppleCare+ program unique to Apple Store, and finally just two days ago, Target blamed Apple for its decline in sales. You juxtapose that article with the one above, and you will “think different” about the dropping of the moniker.
And, whether you think the reason Apple is dropping the “Store” from its stores is because its brand has reached the “other 95” percent or is something more insidious—the next step in subsuming the margins that go to third party retailers, you are still further along than Gruber, who would have you believe that “Apple Store” was a stupid, senseless moniker in the first place and the decision to drop is is consequence-free.