After the doors closed – the fun began
Apple Battersea has been open for around 6 months and has quickly become an integral part of the London scene.
This store was launched as part of a larger retail program that saw Apple freshen up many of the existing European and U.S. locations whilst seeking to push further into the developing China & Asia markets.
In total 15 stores will eventually be rolled out across the Asia-Pacific region, four new stores in the U.S. and Canada, and five additional sites in Europe and the Middle East as part of a global program.
Attention to detail
The store is set within the historic former Battersea Power Station, beautifully and painstakingly restored to resemble its former glory. Everywhere you look, Battersea Power Station has been renovated in a very empathetic manner with all kinds of originality left exposed – and Apple has taken a steer from that 1930 design style and melded it to their brand.
The ceiling is high and open with acoustic baffles that I think are made in part from sugar cane. Apart from simply looking lovely they also aid with acoustic clarity in-store.
This store is now the premiere Apple Store in the UK and the showcase for Apple globally. Looking closer there are parts of exposed walls that weren’t covered in sustainably sourced oak, that hark back to the original Art Deco power station and iron beams that have been manufactured to replicate those features of the original building.
When the store opened, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail said of the new London location;
“Our stores are a place where the community can come together to discover all of Apple’s incredible products and services, and we’re proud to be expanding to serve even more customers with the opening of Apple Battersea. Located just below our new U.K. headquarters, our amazing team is excited to provide exceptional support and help customers unleash their creativity.”
That’s right – Battersea now plays home to Apple’s UK headquarters and their 3000-strong employees and has taken up approximately 40 per cent of the entire building including the top six floors of this impressive space.
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Where possible the store has looked at the local community and environment to create something unique and has used reclaimed or recycled materials as much as possible to fit into the company’s environmental ethos. Battersea is operationally carbon neutral and runs on 100 per cent renewable energy.
Last night’s event was very much a community-based event.
In celebration of Black History Month, Apple Battersea created this networking evening that brought together local creatives, businesses and founders. There were three inspiring talks from black founders who spoke about their unique stories and struggles. The evening was all about inclusivity and diversity which are core to Apple’s values and the event itself was full to the brim.
There were a few different sides to the evening though that you don’t always get to see from Apple.
Yes, it was typical Apple and pretty corporate – well at least to start with. The queue outside was the kind you’d expect to see on iPhone release day – it was a huge turnout – and it was then we saw the side of Apple that you’d expect to see.
Staff lined up with iPads getting you to grant permission to use your photo and making certain they had good data on you – that much was no surprise. And being Apple, it was meticulously organised as well – one by one the last few customers left the store as Apple Battersea was then transformed into an evening venue as DJs set up the decks and food & drinks were brought out. Suddenly the store looked more like a bar than a retail unit…
There was typical Apple attention to detail with the wine being sourced from areas that reflected the evening and a local Caribbean company supplying the food – I’m a cynical person by nature, but even I had to admit that I think the evening mattered to Apple.
Easy does it
That community thing was a theme to the evening – it mattered to Apple that it was people local to them who were attending – the outside queue was the last I saw of corporate BS and it was that which made the evening so relaxed and just fun.
What struck me was that this wasn’t a sales evening nothing could’ve been further from the truth. And this is the side of Apple we don’t get to see.
With the beautifully crafted ’shows’ or events like the recent Wonderlust, on-point advertising and carefully worded press release, all we generally see from Apple is the cold, almost humourless and emotionless corporate side. I get they are a business and making money has to be their first concern, but this other side – the side I saw at Battersea last night was almost pure and refreshing.
I didn’t see a single member of the sales team the entire evening. We were surrounded by the most gorgeous gear and the full iPhone 15 range but that quickly became a backdrop to the evening and not the purpose of the evening – and that made a huge difference to the vibe.
Rather than looking over our shoulders waiting to be attacked for a purchase, we were just free to mingle, mix, talk and share stories and experiences.
It all makes sense
All Apple ever wanted to achieve out of last night’s event was to bring like-minded people together. The fact it was in an Apple Store was incidental.
The speakers were there because of their stories not as Apple sheep. None other them ever mentioned Apple and one even had an Android phone! This wasn’t a ‘how Apple helped make me a success of my life’ show at all – there was a bigger mission about the evening.
And that mission was about community. Earlier in the year I was reading one of those well-formed press releases about this store and the cynic in me just assumed they were pretty words on a sheet – but last night I was proven gloriously wrong.
Apple stepped up to the plate and put their money where their mouth was. Both the heritage of the store and the people there mattered. The sad part was though, unless you were there you’d never have seen or experienced this other side of the company.
The next time I hear them talking about becoming carbon-neutral or what environmental measures they are putting in place – you know what, I may just be given to believe them.
It turns out that Apple does care – and this first Apple Battersea event proved it. London matters to them, Londoners matter to them and bringing all that together matters to them.
Big business can have a heart – who’d of thought!
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