Apple on Friday will take the wraps off its latest and biggest store redesign: its Fifth Avenue NYC location. CNET got a sneak peak of the revamp on Thursday.
The new store, located in the same location right off of Central Park on 59th street and Fifth Ave., is double the size of the old one. New adjustments to the plaza above ground feature a redesigned outdoor plaza with added trees, small water pools (which will be turned off in the winter) and new “sky lenses,” mirrored seating areas with glass centers that allow natural light into the store and sky views from inside the store while giving viewers above ground a “birds-eye” look below.
As part of the appeal to be a more communal space and less like a traditional store, the Fifth Avenue store has a number of trees and foliage inside as well. Updated LED lighting adjusts over the course of the day to match the color temperature of the light outside, a feature that is similar to the iPhone’s “Night Shift” mode that gradually makes the screen warmer as nightfall approaches.
There are plenty of tables to accommodate Apple’s latest iPhones, Apple Watches, iPads and Macs while a large screen at the front of the store has seating space for presentations and events. There are new “boardrooms” available for businesses looking to learn more about incorporating Apple into their workflow while the back has a listening room for HomePods.
An expanded “Genius Bar” now runs the length of the store, which has 900 employees that can speak 36 languages.
Also new: the classic glass spiral staircase has been replaced in the revamped space and is now made of stainless steel. There are also two new entrances and exits if you don’t want to take the main stairs.
Apple dismantled its 32-foot cube — one of New York’s major tourist attractions — in 2017 ahead of renovations and temporarily relocated the store. Earlier this month, it displayed rainbow-tinted glass on the cube’s walls ahead of the reopening.
The store is one of the first major openings since Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s HR chief, took over as head of retail. The long-time Apple executive added the role to her responsibilities after Angela Ahrendts left the company in April. Ahrendts, the former CEO of fashion designer Burberry, was the first Apple executive to oversee the company’s physical stores and its online retail efforts.
While at Apple, Ahrendts oversaw big changes in the company’s retail operations. She streamlined the company’s systems and processes and sought to turn physical Apple stores into community gathering places, not just locations to make a purchase. The new store architecture — developed along with Apple Chief Designer Jony Ive — included “Genius Groves” for tech support and “avenues” with long tables and little shops to give the feeling of being in a town square. Apple also has been remodeling older stores with the updated design.
Ive, who left Apple in June, was involved in the design of the updated Fifth Avenue location as well, says Stefan Behling, head of studio and senior executive partner at design firm Foster and Partners.
Behling’s firm has long worked with Apple on its retail and physical locations, including the company’s new Cupertino headquarters, Apple Park.
But the new stores have faced some criticism. There’s no clear place to make purchases (store employees typically wander around with iPhones to process payments), and some experiments, like having people make appointments to buy the Apple Watch when it first launched, have failed.
Apple’s Fifth Avenue store is its biggest and one of its most profitable. The location, which first opened in May 2006, has long operated for 24 hours a day, drawing in local New Yorkers and tourists visiting the city. It has become one of the most photographed spots in Manhattan.
Apple’s renovated Fifth Avenue store features an expanded public plaza and heightened ceilings. It’s nearly double the size of the previous design. Apple last renovated the location in 2011, overhauling the facade and “simplifying” the design of its iconic glass cube “by using larger, seamless pieces of glass.”
O’Brien, speaking at the company’s iPhone 11 launch last week in Cupertino, Calif., called it the “biggest store re-opening ever.”
“Inside everything’s been completely transformed,” she said. “We dramatically increased the height and doubled the size.”