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.

Posted at November 21, 2004 10:24 PM


rob said on November 22, 2004 12:08 AM

Hey Andy, was good to see a sane person after spending so long talking to strangers with only 10% of their brains still functioning.

My friend and I failed to get a “really” lucky bag (with an iPod) but did get some good stuff.

There are a number of good photos here but mainly of us queuers.

The store itself is very impressive, open plan and covered in expensive building materials (no MDF in sight) just as you would expect.

See you at the Brighton store opening ;)

Andrew Hume said on November 22, 2004 12:10 AM

Heheh heh.

I arrived at about the same time as you, Andy. Kind of wondered around looking at the spectacle for a bit, and then, in a kind of a stupor, joined the back of the queue - somewhere near the little park.

I had nothing to do till about 3 in the afternoon so figured what better way to spend the morning than hanging with a load of mac geeks (at least 50% had ipods!).

As it happened I was queuing with a number of interesting people. A games programmer, a textile designer, and a hard-core programmer type. We had a laugh - for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes!

I got in at about 12.30 and could only stay for 15 minutes. Quite exciting though.

You would have got a t-shirt too, Andy. I left mine at my meeting that afternoon - but I think a colleague has picked it up for me. I haven’t even got it out of the box yet to see it.

Small Paul said on November 22, 2004 9:58 AM

Yup, I thought, as I live in London, I’d be crazy and get there for 7:30am. Queue was already past Hanover Square. My lucky bag hopes dashed, I went and got breakfast, and started queueing at 8am.

I was around 660th in the queue (I did a count at one point). By the time 10am rolled around, the queue had squished up, so I reckon there were over 2000 people queueing by opening time. Absolutely awesome. That’s some mighty brand relationship stuff going on there.

Colly said on November 22, 2004 2:55 PM

Andy, cheers for the report, and the phonecall (unfortunately I lost my phone in a restaurant on Friday night, hence no reply - got it back now though). After Mac over-exposure at the Expo the day before, and lots of people telling me that the queue was already massive, I’ve decided not to go until next weekend, when hopefully it’ll be a little quieter!

Incidentally, looking forward to my new G5 after playing with one at the Expo - but when are they gonna arrive?!

makka said on November 22, 2004 3:17 PM

This is possibly the most tragic thing i’ve ever heard of. Get a life. (and I don’t mean an iLife)

Col said on November 22, 2004 3:24 PM

I’m a mac user myself (just took deliver of a dual 2ghz g5) and I love it to bits, but I have to say, am I missing something here? What is this unhealthy obsession with the opening of a shop?

Anyone would think that apple have created the cure for cancer the way it has been covered, its crazy.

Although I have to say, kudos to apple’s marketing department they have definitly whipped up a storm in a teacup.

Am I the only one who prefers to shop online?

Joel said on November 22, 2004 7:11 PM

Hi everybody, it seems I am the only one who put up a video report about the Apple London openning.

It was overwhelming! also cause a little problem. My site is down at the moment. Hope it will up again in couple of days.

I put all the video up on another site.

hope you guys enjoy it. Until next one.

Small Paul said on November 22, 2004 9:37 PM

One man’s storm in a teacup is another man’s brand experience in a really, really shiny shop :)

I know what you mean guys, but that’s the thing with Apple - us users will see the computer as a small part of our personality. So when lots of us have a specific location as the focal point for it, with loads of little cool things all attached to it (Lucky bags, t-shirts going for $500 on eBay, media coverage, transparent staircases), it all becomes quite a day out for us.

Of all the eccentricities we could have, at least this one means we don’t get computer viruses :)

Nick Rigby said on November 23, 2004 10:36 AM

I went down for the launch too and was amazed by the buzz. I could’nt believe how many people turned out.

My original plan was to go down early on Saturday, but ‘muchos tequilas’ on the Friday night put a stop to that. When I finally did make it at around 1pm the queue was massive.

I cut my losses and went down on the Sunday instead. Awesome shop and a great experience.

Jake Ham said on November 23, 2004 11:52 AM

I got there a little later, noonish. The queue was still really huge. We decided to wait, and it roughly only took 40 mins to get in. We didn’t get a t-shirt as hoped. I happened to pick up the special edition St. George case. They only made 1000 for the Region street opening. Being an American, it will be a cool item to take home!

Lee said on November 25, 2004 8:53 AM

The BBC Online article I read stated that by 11am (an hour after opening) there were 5000 people lined up.

cyberi4n said on November 25, 2004 8:09 PM

Jeez it’s just a shop selling over-hyped computers! I mean, I’ve used both and I really don’t think they’re anything to write home about! Yeah they LOOK good, but as far as usability is concerned, well to be honest with you I’ve not noticed much difference!

DVD said on November 30, 2004 3:09 AM

or maybe not even anything that well defined ps2 - just, to start behaving in a different ps2 way. I would like to walk up to all these computer strangers and offer to switch headphone jacks shoes for a minute or two, the idea being that plasma tv each of us would suddenly know a lot more playstation about the other past what they look like, bag which is all you can really know about a contact lens stranger when you meet them (aside from maybe video game