The Apple of Grand Central’s eye

August 3, 2011
The Big Apple is getting another … big apple. 

Just what Grand Central needs: more people. And it’s a sure thing that there will be many, many more people making their way through the main concourse when an Apple store opens up in a place that is already synonymous with large, bustling crowds.

A 23,000 square feet Apple store in Grand Central on the mezzanine level, which is currently occupied by a restaurant, would be the company’s fifth in New York City. Apple has opened more than 300 retail locations since it launched its first one in Virginia a decade ago.

Apple’s decision to open stores was distinctly against the tide by going all bricks and mortar as the world was beating a path to the virtual door of such e-tailers as Amazon.com. It was especially gutsy, too, as it came during the early stages of the dotcom bust and before Apple had become a mainstream high-tech company. This was months before the iPod was released, when Apple was still a niche player with a respectably large fan base but no clear way to capture the hearts and minds of the 97% or thereabouts general public which lived the Windows universe.

Even though dotcom companies were vaporizing as quickly as they had fueled the now bursting bubble there was no serious talk that the Internet was a passing fad, or that the growth of online commerce would reverse. Still, stores are expensive propositions, and Apple did not skimp on staff or interior design.

Zagging while the world zigged worked. Just as Apple had launched a desktop computer against the inexorable tide of portables with the iMac, and just as Steve Jobs had, as Pixar founder, revitalized the animated movie business, Apple’s stores multiplied and became retail hubs that are — well, as busy as Grand Central Terminal.

Sony tried the same thing, and even Palm. Both failed. Apple now has well over 300 stores, including a New York flagship that may be the highest-grossing store on Ritzy Fifth Avenue.

For Grand Central, the prospective Apple store is the crowning touch on a years-long revitalization effort which has attracted dozens of retailers. One of first to pioneer the modern rebirth of Grand Central was tony restaurant Metrazur, which will surely be paid a handsome premium for giving up its lease, which runs through 2019.

I have to confess, I’m terribly biased on this one. I pass through Grand Central every working day and the prospect of a conveniently-located Apple store is quite appealing.

Foot traffic at Grand Central is legendary. Three-quarters of a million people pass through on an average day. Silicon Alley Insider speculates that this one store could make just south of half a billion dollars a year — $20,000 per square foot, compared by the roughly $4,000 per square foot Apple averages across all of its stores.

Traffic is perhaps the single most important metric to Jobs. It’s the reason he won’t open a store in Cupertino, Calif., the town where his company is headquartered (there is a store at Apple, but not in town).

“The problem with putting an Apple Store in Cupertino is there just isn’t the traffic,” Jobs told the town council last year, in an aside during a presentation about the company’s proposed new building. “So I am afraid it might not be successful. It’s got be successful.”

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2 comments

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Re” I pass through Grand Central every working day and the prospect of a conveniently-located Apple store is not so appealing.”

Why not?

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

@Anonymous. Yikes. Exact opposite. No idea how it came out like that, but I will fix ASAP. Thanks for asking.

Posted by johncabell | Report as abusive