Apple to shift focus from stores to website

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) head of retail Angela Ahrendts wants customers to go online, not to stores for new product launches as "the days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over."

This, according to a leaked internal memo obtained by Business Insider. Arendts wants to end the days of shoppers flooding stores in the hopes of buying  product in limited supply. The Apple Watch launches Friday, April 10.

"This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen," she wrote. "Tell your customers we have more availability online and show them how easy it is to order. You'll make their day."

Apple's product launches complete with shoppers camped out and lined up around stores have become something of a ritual. The intense media coverage and limited availability have added to Apple's mystique, and the shortages create a sense of rarity for those seeking to buy a new release.

Directing shoppers elsewhere is one way to deal with dissappointed customers who leave empty handed, but what does it do to Apple's image and the cult of Mac culture that creates an environment so enticing that customers will sleep on the street outside?

There have been hints of change for Apple stores since Ahrendts joined the company in late 2013. But little has changed in the stores since. But new displays for the Apple Watch will be different than those for any product before it. Watches will be under glass and store associates will be armed with mobile product displays attached to an iPad as they roam about the store. There will also be private rooms for customers to try on the Watch in those stores large enough to accommodate them.

It seems Apple and Ahrendts are poised to make some real changes in not just the way stores look, but also in the role they play as the main interface with the public. Directing shoppers away from physical stores to its website, if true, is a real shift in retail strategy.

For more:
-See this Business Insider story
-See this TechCrunch article
-See this 9to5Mac story

Related stories:
Apple Watch ushers in new era for Apple retail
Apple stores to get facelift
Apple Watch, Pay will change retail
Apple shatters sales records with iPhone 6

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