Edinburgh Apple Store: Opening to bring madness

Eager customers wait for the opening of the Apple store in Strasbourg in 2012. Picture: Getty
Eager customers wait for the opening of the Apple store in Strasbourg in 2012. Picture: Getty
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This weekend the Capital is set to experience Apple-madness at first hand, as the flagship Princes Street store opens its doors at 10am on Saturday.

The technology giant inspires the kind of die-hard loyalty other companies can only dream of, and the legendary throngs that gather to meet its new store and product launches have become something of a pop culture phenomenon.

The UK’s first Apple store – on London’s Regent Street – attracted crowds of more than 1000 people for its opening day in November 2004, with some queueing for up to three days.

The night before opening, hardcore Apple enthusiasts were even filmed setting fire to a computer mouse on the street as a show of contempt for Windows PCs.

In China – Apple’s fastest growing market – the country’s tenth Apple store opened in Chongqing in July to queues of more than 3000 people, with similar scenes meeting the launch of earlier stores, such as in Shanghai, last year.

The unveiling of Sydney’s flagship branch in 2008 saw crowds forming two days before doors were set to open, with around 1200 fans estimated to have queued up overnight.

California-based Apple fan Gary Allen travels the world attending store openings, including Regent Street and Japan’s first branch in Tokyo.

He said: “The real experience is within the last one or two hours. The energy returns to the over-nighters in the waiting line, and by the time the store opens, the excitement has returned. It’s pretty crazy.”

But while store openings attract hordes of fans, nothing can compare to the madness that ensues when new Apple products are launched.

Just last month, the unveiling of the iPhone 6 saw excited crowds boil over into chaos outside Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, as fans desperate to lay their hands on the latest gadget broke into fights.

Richard Bent, a business expert at Queen Margaret University, was in San Francisco during the launch of the original iPhone in 2007.

“I happened to go for a walk and I saw all these people standing outside on the pavement. It was like a film premiere, with all the cameras flashing,” he said.

“Someone – who had been queueing for three days – came out with a box and was holding it in the air above their head, with everyone clapping. It was like a cup final. It’s the ultimate marketing dream.”

He said Apple’s phenomenal success was down to its accessible products and well-crafted image.

“Apple makes products that work and that look nice – and that make life easier.

“They are accessible to everybody, whether you are young or old. It’s innovation combined with a very cool design,” he said.

“There are not many companies that manage to cross age groups. Apple is cool for young kids, for teenagers and for adults.”

Mr Bent insisted the new store’s launch was a coup for the Capital.

“It’s one of these things where every serious town centre has one,” he said.

“It’s quite an important thing for Edinburgh to have. It’s an asset because it also helps the city centre as so many of us have Apple products.”

For Dr Susan Dunnett, a marketing expert at Edinburgh University’s Business School, the launch of the new Apple store comes at a good time, following the recent launch of the iPhone 6 and rumours the iPad Air 2 could be on its way.

“The thing with Apple is it’s a really cool brand, and a really creative brand,” she said. “Apple fans tend to have this really deep connection with the brand. It creates this sense of community.”

This could go some way to explaining why so many queue up outside new Apple branches, she said.

“The queues are almost a pop culture phenomenon. It’s about the experience and the excitement, and the camaraderie. But I’m interested to see whether we do have that hype here in Edinburgh among our typically very reserved residents.”

As for the store itself, Apple bosses are remaining typically tight-lipped.

“It’s not clear if Apple retained or restored any of the building’s original interior details, including the ceiling and light fixtures,” said Mr Allen. “These are really the details that would make Princes Street distinctive.”