updated 11:15 am EDT, Mon May 28, 2007
Sony lags Apple in retail
Sony is not only playing catch-up with the iPod, but also with the Apple's enormous success in retail. Apple, which has about 180 stores and is enjoying tremendous success in retail sales numbers, continues to expand its retail store division, which generated sales of $855 million and contributed more than $200 million in profits. Sony, on the other hand, is struggling to attract visitors and "doesn't get retail," according to several retail consultants. "Sony doesn't get retail. The [Sony] stores are not energized and not shop-able."
Apple, however, has largely remained true to its original retail concept, offering the popular "Genius" bars at each of its stores for post-sales tech support and help. The company has seen a meteoric rise in the success of its stores, despite many nay-sayers who predicted the retail division's failure at a time when many PC manufacturers were backing out of retail.
"Apple went to a billion faster than any other retailer in history, starting from a standing start," one retail consultant recently remarked. "Apple is the highest volume-per-square-foot retailer in the United States of America. It's like a homerun."
Apple stores look and feel less like retail shops and more like lounges with plenty of activities to entertain guests, and most stores offer training sessions alongside other events to keep foot traffic high.
Apple stores extend an "emotional connection" to their customers that Sony's do not, according to one New York Times article. Sony Style stores, another consultant said, were faulted as being merely "a place of stuff," without any passionate attachment seen by successful brand retailers such as Target, Starbucks, and Apple.
Sony, for its part, says its stores are just fashion boutiques and are not intended to be compared with Apple's retail initiative: Sony's stores were conceived as a "fashion boutique for women and children" that incidentally happened to carry electronics instead of clothing, according to Sony's senior vice president of retail.
Apple continues to aggressively expand its retail division, planning its third -- and largest retail store -- in New York City as well as upcoming stores in San Francisco, Los Gatos, the UK, and other internatinal locations.