Apple has proven itself resistant to the economic challenges a lot of consumer technology companies have faced of late, and the opening of a new flagship retail store in one of London's most affluent areas embodies its ongoing success pretty well - and TechRadar got an early chance to look around.
The new Brompton Road Apple Store - nestled in London's high-sheen corner, Knightsbridge, where designer fashion retailers rub shoulders with the famous luxury department store Harrods - is located on the spot of the old Brompton Arcade, which dates back to 1903.
Like the company's other London stores in Regent Street and Covent Garden, the design of Brompton Road pays homage to the site on which it's found; the shape of seven-meter tall floor-to-ceiling arched glass windows echo the original arcade, for example.
As storefronts go it's hard to miss, especially when you can see what's inside.
Grab and go
The Brompton Road Apple Store is the first in the country to feature something that Apple has been developing hard in the US: Apple Pickup, which evolved from Apple's Express Pickup system that allowed consumers to get their hands on products without needing to visit stores during lockdown.
This is the first time in a UK Apple Store that customers will have a dedicated area where they can head to pick up the items they've ordered online, compared with needing to flag down a staff member to help with their order.
This will be hugely beneficial come the expected iPhone 14 launch in September, where a steady stream of customers will be expected in the weeks following the release and having a way to navigate them will make the experience a little slicker.
What's interesting about the Brompton Road Apple Pickup zone is that it's on the left-hand side of the store, towards the rear. Apple Store blogger Michael Steeber recently wrote about how Apple is openly evolving the placement of this Pickup areas in different stores, with different locations and layouts being used depending on the location.
In the new Apple Brompton Road Store, you'll need to weave your way past many other Apple gadgets to pick up your new device - taking you past the tree-lined zones and a likely-tempting AirPods trial zone, where you can see how Apple's own headphones work.
While you grab your order, the eye might be also caught by the huge 'Today at Apple' screens that show off workshops and other content that take place in the Store - perhaps another design choice to engulf customers in the differing Apple retail experience.
As with the company's original Regent Street location - which opened in London in 2004 and was subsequently refitted in 2016 - Brompton Road's Apple Store features a familiar open-plan layout, dressed in natural materials, designed to reflect the company's green pledges.
Sandblasted Castagna stone lines the walls and pillars, the terrazzo flooring is made from a bio-resin that includes castor oil and recycled glass, and both the tables dressed with iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as the arched ceilings, are all hewn from sustainable wood; with twelve sizeable ficus trees helping soften the space, with the intention of reminding visitors this isn't solely a retail space.
Located just a stone's throw from one of the city's most centrally-located green spaces, Hyde Park, at launch Apple has dressed the windows with plant-based motifs, blended with some of their most popular products, and attendees from the preview event walked away with a packet of wildflower seeds sporting this same bespoke designs.
Not the typical thing Apple customers can expect to pick up, when the store formally opens on July 28.
Educate and entertain
Just as with its other flagship locations, Apple's new Brompton Road store will host numerous free events too; with training, talks and more, revolving around areas like fitness and creativity.
To mark opening day, Apple’s VP of Fitness Technologies, Jay Blahnik, is going to be on-hand, accompanied by trainers Cory Wharton-Malcolm, Jamie-Ray Hartshorne, Kim Ngo, and Jonelle Lewis, who'll be leading an Apple Fitness+ Q&A session, followed by a three-kilometer walk and a five-kilometer run around Hyde Park.
Additional sessions including talks on AR (the preview event also marked the launch of the new 'United Visions' AR experience, created for the Getty Museum by Tin&Ed and award-winning producer, Just Blaze), as well as illustration sessions, where attendees will be shown how to create using 'inspiration from the local blooms,' as Apple puts it.
Fans inside and out
The staff in Apple's retail stores are a famously passionate bunch and that rang true based on the interactions we had during the preview event.
The 200-strong team is reportedly comprised of musicians, artists and developers from 26 nationalities, speaking 45 languages, and chatting with a handful of them, there was a tangible sense of excitement surrounding opening day and the interactions they were expecting to have with the initial wave of curious customers.
The stage is set
The Apple Store Brompton Road carries all of the hallmarks that make the company's other London locations appealing retail experiences.
There's little doubt that this new store will play host to a familiar line of excited Apple fans in the coming months, when the iPhone 14 series eventually arrives (expected to be around late September).
Even if the rumors are true and the iPhone 14 does end up sporting a higher price than its predecessor, nowhere more so in the city of London will a few extra pounds go unnoticed than in affluent Knightsbridge.