Apple Stores Packed This Weekend; Will the Stock Pop?
I covered considerable Midtown ground. Typical second-to-last weekend before Christmas -- tons of people, lots of drunk Santas, gridlock on streets and sidewalks, but not many long lines to buy stuff.
I spied obvious suburbanites unsure how to navigate urban streets, an abundance of tourists, plenty of window shopping, but not that many shopping bags on the tote.
FAO Schwarz had its usual block-long line. I didn't go in so I'm not sure if people were browsing or buying.
Every single Starbucks (SBUX) -- and they come practically every other block -- had a moderate-to-massive line.
And the Apple (AAPL) Store -- oh my, the Apple Store -- I have never seen anything like it.
I am no stranger to Apple Store chaos. I live a few blocks from the Santa Monica store that did $1 million per day in 2011 (and likely still does). I often visit the wildly popular Downtown San Francisco location. And I go to the Apple Store, Fifth Avenue every time I'm in Manhattan.
Saturday was different than what I am used to seeing at an Apple Store.
Take this with a grain of salt -- it's anecdotal; however it's no less reliable than Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster sending staff to a mall to quantify traffic. It's all painfully unscientific. It makes more sense than Citi downgrading Apple and lowering the stock's price target to $575 on "demand" concerns after iPhone 5 blows out opening weekend numbers in the U.S. earlier this year and in China this past weekend.
On Saturday, the Fifth Avenue Apple Store had a line out the door. The circular staircase leading in and out of the building rarely had a step to spare. Constant flow of people. Not enough Apple Store employees to handle demand. Let me stress -- I have never seen anything like it .
I bought an iPad mini for my daughter (don't tell her, it's a surprise). Turns out it was a good thing my debit card got declined. Don't worry, I don't need a loan. I had the cash to cover the purchase. During a 16-minute phone call with my bank (on hold and live with two operators), we discovered that bank security features would not allow my debit card to run as a credit card. They suggested I ask Apple to do a "pin-based transaction." They did. And it was approved.
During that 16-minute call, I stood next to the long back counter of the store. About eight-to-10 employees staff this counter, armed with mobile payment devices and product neatly stacked behind them. Folks typically line up at this counter when they know what they want.