Apple Store Opening | November 21, 2004
I got to the new Apple Store on Reagent Street about 9:45. I realised there would be no chance to grab a Lucky Bag but I was happy to make do with an opening day T-Shirt. Fat chance. As I went to join the back of the queue it just kept getting further away. Round the side and then the back of the building, over the road to the end of the next block, up the other side of the street (and in the centre of the street as well) and finally ending round the side of a small park near where it started.
The Queue was BIG. Easily a kilometre long and growing by the minute. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen so many people queuing for anything ever, especially not the opening of a shop. Apparently in SF the queue reached 1,200 people by 10am. I’m not sure how many people were in the London queue but I reckon it would have bust a hole in that record easily.
As I walked back to the front of the store the whooping and hollering began. One after another, black clad Apple employees ran past me, shouting and high-fiveing those in the queue. With an almost Californian zeal the queue responded in kind. They’d been queuing for hours–some even days– and the moment they were waiting for was nearly at hand.
Close to the front of the line, around a hundred people back, I spotted a familiar face so went up to say hi. Rob–a student from Brighton– had been queuing since about 7pm the previous evening and braved the bitter London cold to earn his place at the front of the queue. Considering the previous nights below zero temperatures and an obvious lack of sleep, spirits were high. At least it hadn’t rained.
Round the front of the store a huge crowd had gathered. Police and security staff mingled with the Mac faithful and curious passers-by, trying desperately to keep order. Everytime somebody stopped for more than 5 seconds they were ushered away, and yet the crowds kept getting bigger. I’m guessing neither the Apple store or the Police had expected such a huge turnout as workmen hastily erected more crowd control barriers to contain the swelling queue.
From inside the shop music started blaring out, accompanied by the whooping, singing and clapping of Apple employees. A middle aged American woman asked me what was going on, although my answer that it was a shop opening didn’t seem to satisfy her curiosity or explain the spectacle before her. I have images of her going home with tales of commodity impoverished Brits going nuts whenever a new shop opens. Next up were a group of Spanish students eager to see what famous bands the crowds had obviously gathered to see. Sadly I had to crush their hopes of spotting a famous face, although in retrospect I really wished I’d started a rumour that U2 were there.
And then after a brief and inaudible speech, the shop was officially opened. Those at the front of the queue rushed into the store, high-fiveing the cheering staff as they made their way up the stairs for their first look around. Video cameras were in abundance. Staff were filming the Mac faithful stream past while themselves being filmed by the eager Mac fans. The media was on hand to record the spectacle and interview the first through the doors.
The main target for most people were the infamous Lucky Bags, and at around 10:30am the first people started leaving with their booty. Very soon somebody was circling the crowd offering to sell his lucky bag and currently there are over 40 bags being sold on ebay. I honestly don’t know what would make somebody camp out in sub zero temperatures just to be one of the first people into a new shop. For many the chance of making some money by selling their lucky bags on ebay was obviously a strong motivating factor. However for the die hard Mac faithful I guess it was their chance for a walk on role in the rollercoster movie that’s the history of Apple Computers.
Some related links.
- Apple store opening story on the BBC site
- BBC Footage of the opening requires Real Player or Windows Media Player
- Apple fans interviewed by MacUser
- Pics of the opening from Macworld
- My UK Mac Life
- Daily Herald article
- More footage of the opening day
Posted at November 21, 2004 10:24 PM