Frankly, we weren't sure what to expect when we pitched up in Brighton at the tail end of August for the opening of Apple's 21st retail store in the UK.
Of course we'd been to the opening of the first – the flagship Regent Street store in London – and had been caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement of staff and punters alike, but surely the fact that a shop is opening somewhere that already sells Apple kit is hardly something to get het up about?
Boy, were we wrong. We set off from Bath at 5:30am in order to arrive in time for a preopening press briefing with Nye Wright, the store's Manager, but when we rocked up to the new store in Brighton's Churchill Square shopping centre just after 8am, there was already a queue forming.
(And while this isn't in the same league as the camping-out-for-days-beforehand stunts that we've seen at the opening of, say, the Regent Street and Fifth Avenue stores, we were nevertheless impressed that as the store opened – and even half an hour after it did – the queue was easily a couple of hundred strong.)
Hugs and high-fives
For the traditionally reserved Brits, California-flavoured Apple events are often a little awkward.
You could never accuse an Apple Store employee of being surly or pessimistic, but it has to be said that, in the build-up to the opening – with the team inside the glass-fronted store hugging, swaying around in a ring, and high-fiving – that there were a few raised eyebrows and muttered, puzzled accusations of oddly cult-like behaviour.
The whole morning was one of an odd mix of passion and confusion; most of the folks in the queue, by dint of their very presence, would probably say they were hardcore Apple fans, and they were rightly excited about the opening.
And yet for the rest of the world there in Brighton that day, the whole event was anathema. When people learned that the whoopin' and a-hollerin' that accompanied the doors opening marked nothing more than a store opening – and, worse, that the little boxes being given out to the first few through the doors contained not 'free iPhones' as the rumour was but mere T-shirts – we were treated to the full gamut of emotions from bafflement to scorn by way of pity.
Just before the doors opened – after being given their final pep talk by the Store Manager – all the T-shirted employees broke out of the store and did a lap of honour around the top level of Churchill Square, high-fiving all the folks in the queue.
THE BOSS: Nye Wright, the store's Manager, is American, but tells us he loves Brighton
And when the doors did open after an excited countdown, the staff, lined up inside the store on either side of the door, applauded wildly and high-fived the folks in the queue as they streamed into the shop. And for many this was no mere pilgrimage; within minutes of the store opening, people were walking out carrying iMacs, MacBooks and more.
Some told us they'd wanted to buy a Mac but had been waiting until Apple opened a store nearby.
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