Apple is opening a new store in Shanghai, the first of 25 planned so far for China.
Like the Manhattan flagship, the store is underground, with a glass staircase leading down from the glass tower entrance. This level of commitment to a market like China is a good start, and following the recent opening of the Paris Opera store really makes a statement.
But what is important is what happens inside these stores. The experience of retail is in fact the definition of the concept, and an important reinforcement of the brand itself. There is no question that the look of the Apple Store owes some cues to the Gap people who migrated over in the 90's: austere, clean, accessible, product focused. That is good. Apple goes out on a limb to have its associates represent what Apple is. Sometimes, as a 50 something professional consultant, I am not appreciative of what I see in the hires on the floor, but then they approach and disarm me with enthusiasm, service, knowledge and energy.
The thing that really makes Apple Stores work for me is the Genius Bar. Imagine! A place to go where the technicians are expert, the process is hassle free and in my experience, always beyond what one expects. Go in with a problem, armed with arguments and armored for "User error" attacks, and by the time you leave with a resolution you are bewildered by fact that you didn't have to enter into mano a mano combat to succeed. And these people really like what they do, and that they are part of Apple.
Now that is what's Magic.