SINGAPORE: Apple fans turned out in force on Saturday (May 27) as the US tech giant’s first brick-and-mortar store in Singapore opened its doors.
Ahead of the official opening at 10am, an Apple representative said there were more than 200 people queuing around Knightsbridge Mall along Orchard Road, with some in line as early as 5pm on Friday.
Another Apple representative later told Channel NewsAsia there were about 2,000 people in the queue by the time the doors opened.
First in line was Mr Peter Xiang, who had been in line for more than 10 hours. The 25-year-old Chinese national, who has been to several Apple Stores in China, decided to fly to Singapore on May 23 for the opening.
"I've been on standby here for more than 10 hours. No matter, I'm still excited (but) a little tired now," he told Channel NewsAsia. "Looking forward most to (getting a) Apple T-shirt and maybe I will buy something. Maybe some accessories."
Also in the line for more than 10 hours were Mr Timothy Wang and Ms Afreen Akbany, both 17-year-olds studying at ACS International.
Mr Wang said the tech giant's retail outlets stand out for their great customer service and well-planned in-store designs. "I've been to several Apple stores in the US and in Hong Kong, but this is certainly prettier because this is in Singapore ... They have really good customer service too so I'm excited about finally having an Apple Store here."
For 20-year-old Tim Shao from China, live trees taking up prominent spots within were what made the new store in Singapore unique.
"The designs of all the Apple stores are uniformed so in terms of the layout, this is nothing special," he told Channel NewsAsia. "What's unique is the trees here and this is the Apple Store version 2 design that only started last year. This is not available in the US."
The two-storey Apple Orchard Road is also the first official Apple store in Southeast Asia.
“Generally, Apple stores in Hong Kong, Tokyo and many other cities have turned out to be a destination retail space. Tourists as well as locals are often drawn to the stores to experience the offerings as well as to enjoy the new concepts,” said Mr Desmond Sim, head of CBRE Research for Singapore and Southeast Asia.
“Hence, it is not surprising that this will also be the same for the first Singapore store.”
Apple has nearly 500 stores in 20 countries worldwide and as of April, welcomes more than a million visitors a day. It expects the newly unveiled Singapore store, which it sees as a “modern-day town square”, to be one of its most popular around the world.
Apart from having its core products like the iPhone on display prominently on the first level, the store will also be conducting free hands-on educational sessions on topics such as photography and coding. These sessions will be conducted in a space called the Forum on the second level, which is equipped with a large screen and break-out tables.
Industry experts said the incorporation of activity-based and experiential-based concept stores is synonymous with brands such as Apple. It also serves as a strategy for brick-and-mortar retailers in their battle against e-commerce.
“The business of retail is not only about pure transactions but it has a high experiential component that consumers yearn for and is drawn to. This is especially so for new technology for lifestyle,” said CBRE’s Mr Sim. “Not to mention that the business of retail is also a very visual business. Design of stores will attract crowds.”
One unique design at the Singapore Apple Store that caught much attention was the two curved stone staircases, which drew inspiration from Apple’s new campus in Cupertino.
Industry experts expect the Apple Orchard Road, which opened after many reported delays, to be a boost for Singapore’s prime shopping belt and neighbouring stores.
Ms Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “Before Apple Store came to town, people could have been a bit bored of Orchard Road because there is little differentiation between Orchard Road and, say, a suburban shopping centre as people see more or less the same brands and retail offering.
“I personally believe that Orchard Road is not dead, but it needs to be exciting and entertaining in order for locals and tourists to visit it repeatedly,” she added.