iLounge’s editors and readers have been curious as to what Apple’s going to do for the much-rumored Apple Retail event, scheduled for this Sunday, May 22. A few quick thoughts:
* The event’s likely to celebrate ten years of the Apple Store and possibly 1 billion visitors. Apple executives noted last month that the Store was days away from meeting the latter number, calling it out as a major milestone.
* Whatever the event is, it’ll need to be true to Apple’s concept of the Apple Store experience—as it is, and as it’s likely to be in the immediate future. We’ve internally discussed a number of scenarios that seem unlikely for one reason or another—a rollout or partial rollout of its iCloud service (demos required; why go to Store for this), NFC iPhone payments (no new iPhones with NFC available now; no one’s buying accessories or lining up for this), a simple “everything’s on sale” day (generates relatively mild excitement, may crowd stores, won’t justify lines), a straight giveaway (Apple doesn’t like to just give stuff away), and a special edition product launch (items most in need of this—e.g. 10th anniversary iPod classic—mightn’t be line-worthy).
* Our feeling is that Apple would want to celebrate the retail stores, generate national/international press for their success, and reward customers at the same time. The most likely option we’ve thought of: a Lucky Bag (or box) event akin to the ones at Apple’s Japanese stores, where people line up, pay a chunk of cash, and get a bag of random stuff that’s worth more than the cash (at least on paper). Some very lucky people walk away with iPods or iPads. Others get bunches of accessories and T-shirts. A handful of people wind up with pimped out MacBooks or iMacs, crazy iTunes Store gift cards, or some other big prize. Surprise and delight all around. Big lines, too. And things are being “given away,” but a lot of money is also being taken in at the same time. Win-win-win. (Note: In addition to the Japanese fukubukuro lucky bags, there’s precedent for this in the U.S. – $250 gift bags with $600-$1000 worth of stuff inside. It would likely go over even better now.)
* An advance announcement will most likely be needed. Thursday seems like the right day for it, to let people make plans to line up, but depending on the scope of the event, it could be today or Friday. Also, nothing’s to stop Apple from adding a little surprise factor (such as a special edition item) to the event, but the core of it would be gift-to-our-customers themed.