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Tabletops: The Forum formula

Michael Steeber
Michael Steeber
The Forum formula
Recalculating the trajectory of an Apple Store staple.
In February 2020, Apple was working in the shadow of the pandemic to remodel several classic stores. Each location added a Forum and Video Wall in place of the Genius Bar. They were among the last to do so.
The Classic Store Upgrade Program began in 2018 as a way to enhance the Today at Apple experience and bring the latest fixtures to stores that didn’t yet need to be rebuilt from the ground up. 24 locations were upgraded in 2018 and 43 more were completed in 2019. Together with new store openings and full reconstruction projects, Apple was on track to replace every Genius Bar with a Forum in just a few years.
I made this video in 2019 to highlight the dramatic change:
What’s clear is that Forum upgrades came screeching to a halt when the pandemic began. What’s unclear is whether the pandemic simply coincided with a strategy change.
September 2021 brought the opening of Apple The Mall at Bay Plaza, which introduced a new design language that eschews the Forum entirely in favor of Apple Pickup and two smaller Today at Apple zones. As fun as the Video Wall is, this design functionally makes more sense. Mall stores never host large, artist-led Today at Apple sessions, but they do host countless pickup orders and Genius Bar appointments every week. The Forum must play lounge when idle.
Given the past two years of data, here’s how I believe Apple will position the Forum and Video Wall for the foreseeable future, and what you can expect for your local store:
Apple Main Place: No Genius Bar, no cubes, many questions. (via @lupulopi)
Apple Main Place: No Genius Bar, no cubes, many questions. (via @lupulopi)
New high-profile locations and newly-rebuilt stores with significant architecture will continue to include Video Walls and Forums. These locations will also offer dedicated Apple Pickup zones.
New locations in “standard” malls and newly-rebuilt mall stores will look like Apple The Mall at Bay Plaza and will not contain a Forum or Video Wall. I discussed this idea in detail in Tabletops #18.
• Existing high-profile stores will continue to be remodeled as needed. These renovations will add Video Walls and Forums only if there is an opportunity to provide significant cultural Today at Apple programming.
Classic stores will receive “maintenance” upgrades to refresh tables, flooring, and finishes. In some cases, Genius Bars will be removed and replaced with… nothing (see Apple Main Place above). The long-term strategy for classic stores is unclear to me. They’re called “classic” for a reason. More on that in a future newsletter.
Featured image
Apple Champs-Élysées
Photo via @_pariskim on Instagram.
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Michael Steeber
Michael Steeber @michaelsteeber

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