How do you buy a $17,000 smartwatch? Probably not by struggling to get the attention of a T-shirt-wearing employee in a crowded Apple Store. So, although Apple occupies some of the most coveted and profitable retail space in the world, it’s taking a different approach when it starts to sell the Apple Watch next month, putting it in department stores and boutiques around the world.
One example is here in Tokyo, where Apple is constructing a Watch shop inside Shinjuku’s Isetan, one of the biggest and most famous department stores in Japan. It’s the first thing you see when you enter the store — an ominous black box right by the entrance, marked only with the Apple Watch logo and a subtitle saying “Coming soon” in Japanese. Though you can’t see inside the closed doors just yet, the floor space is sizeable, and Apple is right next to fine jewelry brand Cartier.
As a wearable device, the absolute most important thing is that people want to wear the Apple Watch above all else; if they don’t, the product can’t succeed. But Apple thinks people will want to wear it, otherwise it wouldn’t be taking on fashion and luxury brands on their own turf. It’s the reason Apple opened a new store in hip Omotesando last year, yet doesn’t have an outlet in nerd mecca Akihabara — it’d rather be thought of as a premium brand in its own right than as a tech company.
The Isetan store will open on April 10th, when pop-up shops will also open at Selfridges in London and Galeries Lafayette in Paris, letting visitors try on the Apple Watch for themselves. The three department stores will all sell the watch come April 24th, and boutiques including Paris’ Colette, Los Angeles’ Maxfield, Berlin’s The Corner, and Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo will also carry it from that date.