AppleInsider, continuing its series of reviews of the most interesting Apple stores, goes to Apple Brompton Road in London.
Apple has a well-deserved reputation for creating the Apple Store, which is just great. But it’s far from simple in reality, it’s a subtle combination of modern retail and respect for history that no other firm even tries to do.
From Apple Brompton Road in London, the story extends to a radical redesign of the store’s interior – it even has trees – and yet it fits in perfectly with its surroundings.
If you look into any online Apple Store, you will see that the photo is a simple facade that looks good, but always gives the impression that the store exists on its own.
In the case of Brompton Road, the reality is that the store has become one of the most expensive retailers in London. It is located at a busy intersection and stands on a typical European narrow street.
Place, place, place
Apple Brompton Road is best reached on the London Underground’s Piccadilly line and the nearest station is Knightsbridge. Due to the long history of connecting tube lines, there are actually four exits at Knightsbridge station, and they take you to completely different places.
Apple Maps AR destinations in London
The farthest one is a four-minute walk from the Apple Store, but this walk will take you straight to London’s most famous and notoriously expensive store, Harrods.
Whereas the nearest tube exit is next to Brompton Road. Exit this exit, turn right and you are in the Apple Store.
The changing fate of London
Despite the presence of Harrods, Brompton Road is not the most famous of London’s shopping streets. This honor belongs to – or at least used to belong to – Oxford Street, not far from the famous BBC Broadcasting House.
But due to the coronavirus and a dwindling number of shoppers, Oxford Street is now home to a plethora of American-themed confectionery companies. The local council is investigating 30 of them for tax evasion, and there are even reports that they are “dirty money”.
However, as Oxford Street falls into disrepair, Brompton Road remains the destination for high-end shopping. For example, there is a Rolex store across the street from Apple and a Harvey Nichols designer store nearby, all of which are close to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Plus, there’s a Burberry’s on the other side of the subway station.
Burberry has been a luxury fashion retailer since 1856, but from 2006 to 2014, ex-Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts served as CEO here.
visited Brompton Road on a cold Monday afternoon in mid-January. At around 4:00 pm, Burberry had two impeccably stylish employees but no discernible customers.
At the same time, Apple Brompton Road had 15 employees and about 40 customers.
Later, at 6:00 pm, when London office workers went home and stores usually remained open until 8:00 pm, Burberry had at least four customers. But there were about 60 of them in the Apple Store now.
Above people’s heads rises a row of 12 trees, and under this undulating wooden canopy
Layout and design
Late Monday afternoon is not peak hour for any retailer, nor is it a busy concept for any customer. However, walking through the glass doors—closed to keep out the cold, but with staff opening them as they approach—there is an instant sense of tranquility compared to the noise outside.
This was our note before we noticed that the store’s own architects also described it as a “calm oasis”.
It is a single, wide and open space with several support columns reaching up to an undulating wooden ceiling. Some UK Apple stores have double-height ceilings, from which Apple has removed what the British call the ground floor.
The space on Brompton Road doesn’t seem so high, but it is noticeably taller than the space above your head and even higher than the space of the trees.
There are 12 trees for the store, a dozen tree pots to be exact. Some have two trunks, all of which rise up to provide green foliage overhead.
The pots are also circular seating areas, and most of them are in the triple-width display case. Others extend down into the store in chains that direct your attention to the very back of the room.
Forty wooden cubes with extra spaces in most of them in the Today at Apple section.
After passing through about 17 tables of Apple devices or Genius Bar help stations, you’ll make your way to the back of the store and enter the “Today at Apple” section. It is marked by a screen about 20 feet in diameter.
There are about 40 cubes in front of this screen that act like wooden stools, and most of them also have a softer leather seat hidden inside. There is also a giant mirrored ceiling above this area, which means that everyone in the store will see what’s going on in training.
While this Today at Apple section is built into the back wall, it’s still one space with the rest of the Store.
Unlike many Apple Stores in the UK, there is only one area, there is no separate basement for selling accessories. Everything is in plain sight in this wide and relaxing space.
For customers picking online orders, there is a corner Pickup area, and its wooden table is surrounded by a wooden wall that matches the color of the ceiling. The store’s use of wood is much subtler than it looks, but it’s enough to ruin what can often be an antiseptic glowing white feel in most UK Apple Stores.
Today, Apple has one large monitor and a mirrored ceiling.
Everything is on the same floor, but separated into zones like Apple Fitness+.
Most cube stools have leather seats inside, but some have large leather balls instead.
An array of soft light on the ceiling makes the entire store bright
There are 17 regular Apple Store tables among the trees.
Apple Brompton Road is at a busy London junction.
Preservation of the heritage of the place
Left: what the building looked like in 2018 (source: Google). Right: Apple cleaned the stonework.
Apple has taken over 17-27 Brompton Road, which presumably means it has replaced more than one previous store. At various times over the past five or six years, the windows at this address have been little more than boarded-up signs for stores like Ecco, Accessorize, and The Cashmere Shop.
But more recently, clothing stores have owned parts of it, including Karen Millen, a Boohoo brand, and Swedish retailer H&M.
The most characteristic part of the store’s exterior for all these owners is the central arch, marked by two small stone statues in the upper corners. Apple kept the arch, but also changed it – instead of a very dirty gray, it is now much lighter, maybe just cleaner.
Night is falling fast on the narrow London streets
Local records show that the store was refurbished from November 2021 to June 2022. Apple Brompton Road opened in July 2022.
This is the sixth Apple Store in London itself, with eight more stores located in the Greater London area. Those with specific London addresses include some of Apple’s other most prestigious stores, including Covent Garden and Regent Street.
Apple has 38 stores throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some are simple built-in storefronts in malls like Solihull’s Touchwood Center, but most are unique celebrations and pieces of architectural history.