Shopping at Apple Retail Stores has always seemed to be split into two parts. At the front of the store are the polished, focused sections focused on selling you Apple's products.
iPhones, iPads and Macs all have their own dedicated tables and sections, with plenty of room to try out the products at your own pace before making a final purchase decision.
Once you've done that, your salesperson will take you over to the accessories section. It's a much different story over there. Tons of products are crammed into shelves, with a confusing mish-mash of things all stuffed together. It's a far cry from the elegant presentation at the front of the store.
But, it seems, Apple has noticed this and is planning big changes in the accessories section, according to a new report from the usually-reliable 9to5Mac.
Instead of a free-for-all in the accessories section (which isn't entirely fair, because Apple's buyers are fairly picky regarding what they carry), Apple is said to be designing custom packaging for a number of products that will end up on its accessory shelves.
They will include simple labels and photography, with white backgrounds to match Apple's own product packaging. Like its first-party boxes, the redesigned packaging will include cleaner fonts, better photography, and higher quality materials—and consistent compatibility labeling to ensure that buyers know exactly what they're getting.
There are some big names among the companies participating, including iPhone battery-case maker Mophie, phone- and notebook-case maker Incase, and waterproof iPhone-case maker LifeProof (which is owned by OtterBox).
The revamping of the packaging is part of a larger reworking of the accessories sections, as Apple looks to drastically reduce the number of third-party accessories sold in its stores in favor of higher quality, more focused choices.
The new Upper East Side Store, which opened earlier this year in New York City, is a great example of the new look (see image above). iPhone cases are displayed on individual pegs, out of their boxes so buyers can touch them and better see which case they want. The cases are mounted on the front of drawers that can be pulled out, giving access to buyable versions of the cases.
Also new is a wall of Beats headphones, showcasing Apple's recently acquired lineup of products. The redesigned third-party packaging is said to already be making its way to Apple Retail Store shelves in New York and elsewhere.
I worked in an Apple Retail Store a few years ago and can remember how overwhelmed customers would get back in the accessories section, even when they knew what they wanted. Products can be hard to find, and the section never looked as good as it could have.
These changes are just the latest step in Apple's efforts to make shopping at its Retail Stores a more streamlined and stress-free process.
Do you go to Apple's Retail Stores to buy third-party accessories for your Apple gadgets? Let us know your thoughts on these changes in the comments below.
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Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.