By Casey Liss
On Selling the Apple Watch

A lot of time has been spent discussing how Apple will sell the pending Apple Watch in their retail stores. The Apple Store of today is vastly different from your average retail store — even super-chains like Zales.

Stephen Hackett, who has insider knowledge about Apple Stores, discussed this recently:

I walked in [to a local jewelry store] wearing jeans, a plaid shirt and sneakers but was helped immediately by the staff. The woman who helped me was knowledgeable and helpful, and even though I spent shy of four figures, the level of service was phenomenal. We had a conversation about Merri’s likes and dislikes, and walked through some options together.

He decides:

I don’t think the current version of the Apple Store is going to adjust well to the high-end Watch.

Stephen then doubles down. As a born-and-bred east-coaster, I couldn’t agree more:

The Apple Stores are informal at best, and confusing at worst. We’ve all walked into a busy store just to feel frustrated at trying to grab someone’s attention. Even in stores that have a greeter to help pair customers with sales associates, it’s a far cry from the one-on-one, high-touch experience someone looking to buy jewelry is used to having.

How does Apple reconcile being hip and “with it” while still effectively providing the white glove service to those willing to spend $5000 or more on a watch?

Something occurred to me today that I hadn’t considered previously: what if the Apple Watch is sold in traditional jewelry stores as well? Moreover, what if one store — let’s pick on Zales for argument’s sake — gets an exclusive?

There’s several upsides to this for both Apple and Zales.

According to ifo Apple Store, there’s around 450 Apple Stores around the globe. By comparison, there are 614 Zales stores in the US and Puerto Rico alone. If you expand beyond Zales to Signet’s other brands, there are 1600 stores. Apple could certainly stand to gain that extended reach for a new product that no one is really sure about yet. For one that you really need to try on before you purchase.

Leveraging the experience of a jewelry store salesperson, who is quite literally a professional at walking a customer through the process of trying on a piece of jewelry, is hugely valuable. Furthermore, these salespeople are experts at selling customers on the right piece for them. At navigating between many seemingly disparate choices to settle on the one that is just perfect.

Zales gets to walk away with a win as well. If the Apple Watch is an exclusive, it would allow them to differentiate themselves from a (perceived) higher-end store such as Tiffany’s. Regardless, having the Apple Watch could potentially bring in customers that are both young and willing to spend, but don’t typically think of a jewelry store as the place to part with their disposable income.

These customers are surely the best kind of customer. Impress a young Apple Watch buyer that has deep pockets with great service and they may come back to expand their burgeoning watch collection. Or to purchase a piece for a loved one. Or, perhaps, for that Apple Watch band they weren’t sure they needed but just had to have a couple months later.

Most importantly of all though, I see this sort of partnership as a potentially huge win for Apple. It’s no surprise that Apple needs to prove that it belongs. That the Apple Watch deserves to be held in the same high regard as Omega, Rolex, or Panerai.

What better way to do that then to see an Apple Watch in a jewelry case, in its own special section, right next to the Omegas and the Panerais?

That would be one hell of a clear statement: we belong.