Great post on the Harvard Business Review website by Ron Johnson, former Senior VP for Retail at Apple and now CEO of J.C. Penney. I particularly like this quote:
So the challenge for retailers isn't "how do we mimic the Apple Store" or any other store that seems like a good model. It's a very different problem, one that's conceptually similar to what Steve Jobs faced with the iPhone. He didn't ask, "How do we build a phone that can achieve a two percent market share?" He asked, "How do we reinvent the telephone?" In the same way, retailers shouldn't be asking, "How do we create a store that's going to do $15 million a year?" They should be asking, "How do we reinvent the store to enrich our customers' lives?"
and this one:
People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they're willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn't focused on selling stuff, it's focused on building relationships and trying to make people's lives better. That may sound hokey, but it's true. The staff is exceptionally well trained, and they're not on commission, so it makes no difference to them if they sell you an expensive new computer or help you make your old one run better so you're happy with it. Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it's a product Apple doesn't carry. Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don't want or need it. That doesn't enrich their lives, and it doesn't deepen the retailer's relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.