Apple Computer's first retail store in Japan - and the first outside the US - officially opens on Sunday, but its doors were opened to the media, yesterday.
The store, in the ritzy Ginza shopping district of Tokyo, covers five floors and includes a theatre that can seat 84 people, a help desk and a classroom, in addition to retail space. It will sell Apple's complete line of computers and peripherals, as well as a handful of products from other vendors, such as printers, scanners and digital cameras.
"This is the best shopping location in the world," Apple senior vice-president of retail operations, Ron Johnson, said.
"New York's Fifth Avenue is great, the Champs Elysées in Paris and Regent Street in London are both great, but there is nothing like Ginza,"
Situated in central Tokyo, the Ginza district is Japan's most pricey real estate and is home to many large department stores and brand name outlets such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci.
The company's range of computers occupy the first floor of the store and are the first items people see when walking in off the street.
The second floor is home to three themed areas: music, movies and photos. This floor includes the company's iPod digital music player and digital still cameras, as well as digital video cameras from companies including Canon, Konica Minolta Camera, Nikon, Sony and Victor. (JVC). It's also home to a walk-up help desk, called the Genius Bar, where Apple experts will answer questions from users.
On the building's third floor is the theatre where Apple intends to hold events and user workshops. A full schedule of nine or ten events per day is planned for the theatre and it will also host user-group meetings.
Software dominates around half of the fourth floor and there are also printers and scanners on display, including models from Canon, HP and Seiko Epson. Visitors will also find an area where kids can play on computers and free Internet access is offered.
At the top of the building is a training centre and reservations for paid courses are already being accepted online. Response to the courses has been good, Johnson said. All sessions for December were already full. Some were booked into the first two months of 2004.
Apple is emphasising its customer service and the shopping experience over that of competing discount electrical retailers, rather than price.
A check of prices for products on display at the store yesterday with those at local shopping site, Kakaku.com, found that in many cases the customer who was solely concerned with price would find a better deal online or in electrical retailers.
Apple also said that it planned to open a store in Osaka, Japan's second largest city, sometime in the second half of 2004.
Johnson wouldn't comment on plans for other retail outlets in Asia.