Thursday, November 21, 2002

Mac attack
for Ala Moana

Apple Computer is bringing its
direct retail outlet to Hawaii

By Russ Lynch

Apple Computer Inc. is planning to open its first Hawaii direct retail outlet, an Apple Store, in Ala Moana Center.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple declined to comment this morning and Ala Moana officials were not immediately available. However, Apple is running advertisements on its Web site seeking applicants for a store manager and assistant manager for a new Ala Moana store.

The company is also looking for an unspecified number of people to fill Honolulu jobs described as "Mac genius" and "Mac specialist."

Apple, maker of Macintosh computers, has 48 Apple stores across the country and is opening them at a rapid rate. Two debut this weekend alone, in Denver and in the San Francisco area. Apple announced three other mainland locations in the "opening soon" category on its Web site.

No details of the Ala Moana store were available early today. The most widely rumored location is the former Pocketbook Man location on the Mall level, now being used by Macy's Holiday Lane seasonal shop, a temporary tenant.

The Apple stores vary in size, starting at about 5,000 square feet, but they have a uniform design, with separate sections for home users and professionals and a counter for advice.

The stores carry the full range of Macintosh computers and Apple software, plus a wide array of digital cameras, camcorders, the recently launched iPod digital music player and other devices.

The company promotes the Apple store as "a place to ask questions and get answers" and "the best place to learn about the Mac." The stores give regular demonstrations of Macs running applications such as iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes and iMovie, as well as the latest Mac operating system. The "Mac genius" personnel are on hand to answer questions. The stores also sell hundreds of third-party software programs that run on Apple equipment.

There are Apple dealers in Hawaii, such as Mac Made Easy in the Nuuanu Shopping Plaza, MacMouse Club on South Street and CompUSA on Ala Moana and at Waikele. For a time, the Sears stores also had a limited range of Apple products.

But Apple decided last year that its best approach was to go into nationwide direct retailing itself. The first two stores opened in May in McLean, Va., and Glendale, Calif. Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive officer, said at the time that the company planned to open one every 10 days.

He said Apple had only 5 percent of the retail computer market and its stores, placed in high-traffic, high-quality retail areas, were the best way to go after the other 95 percent.

In Honolulu, Rolf Nordahl, whose business cards describe him as the "Head Cheese" of MacMouse Club and its Web business, said his business, which sells a wide range of Apple products, welcomes the competition.

"This is great news," he said. "Mac OS (operating system) users in Honolulu will have access to Apple products without having to resort to mail order or dealing with resellers." Nordahl said he believes Apple in Hawaii already has well over the 5 percent market share that Apple claims nationally and a new store will mean more users.

That all adds up to more business for everyone in the Mac field, Nordahl said.

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