Throughout the weekend customers lined up outside the glass wall of Broadway’s new Apple store, waiting their turn to purchase the long-awaited iPhone 4S — even through the rain on Friday. The launch drew crowds through Saturday; more than 100 customers still milled throughout the store two hours before its 9 p.m. closing, as around 15 waited outside below the white light streaming from the Apple logo.
After several years of conversation with Yale University Properties, Apple took its first step toward establishing a New Haven storefront in 2009, Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander ’65 said. Following two years of negotiations and a $4.8 million renovation of the Broadway space, Apple opened doors to shoppers on Sept. 26. The Apple Store has drawn Yalies and Connecticut residents alike over the past three weeks with its popular consumer electronics. Boasting the highest revenue per square foot of any chain retailer in America, Alexander said, Apple’s presence signifies the “continuing viability of Broadway as one of the great shopping destinations of Connecticut.”
Students, who are also turning to Apple for technological support, have called the new store an “upgrade” to the city, and local community members seem to agree, pointing to recent economic vibrancy.
“[Apple’s presence] will draw in more people and also sends a signal to other investors that New Haven is a good place to be,” Michael Morand, Yale’s director of metro, state and alumni communications, said in an email.
A COMMERCIAL ‘RENAISSANCE’?
In the past three weeks, store owners on Broadway said they have already benefited from Apple’s decision to establish a storefront in New Haven.
A-1 Pizza employee Murat Tetik said he estimates that A-1’s sales have increased by 15–20 percent in the past three weeks.
Tetik’s excitement is not unique — Alexander said that Broadway merchants overall have been “enormously pleased” with the increased business that Apple has helped bring to the downtown area.
But, Tetik added that he is unsure whether Apple will continue to draw large numbers of shoppers to Broadway after the excitement of the store opening and iPhone 4S launch fades.
The increased customer traffic also may not be benefiting all businesses equally — local salespeople at Trailblazer interviewed explained that out-of-town shoppers on Broadway do not always cross over to Elm and York Street stores.
Employee Abigail Christina said that while the new Apple store has brought more people to the Broadway shopping area, Trailblazer has been brainstorming ways to capitalize on the increased traffic across the street.
“We are trying to work out ways to get some of this new business here,” Christina explained. “We are working on getting a downtown map or kiosk directory so that if shoppers are on the Apple side of the street, they will know about the other stores available to them.”
Christina added that the store hopes to work with Apple on cross-promotion initiatives that can benefit both retail outlets. A Broadway merchants meeting is held every Thursday morning with local Broadway-area store managers, which she said has been a good forum for collaboration.
In March, The Wall Street Journal published an article describing a commercial “renaissance” in New Haven. Morand believes that such media attention coupled with Apple’s opening last month “will draw more attention to New Haven’s assets.” Alexander said that the Apple store signals New Haven’s viability as a place to do business, adding that the University is currently in the process of making leasing deals with several other high end merchants.
BRINGING MORE SHOPPERS
The new Apple store is one of only five in Connecticut and has drawn customers from across New Haven as well as surrounding cities and suburbs.
“People are coming from lots of different places,” Tetik of A-1 Pizza said. “Right now, New Haven is a special city.”
Tetik said that the Apple store has caused a significant increase in foot traffic along Broadway. Zoe Bornick, an employee at Laila Rowe, agreed that the Apple Store is drawing new customers from a wider variety of Connecticut areas.
“There has definitely been a positive effect,” she said.
The current combination of national chain stores and unique outlets on Broadway may begin to attract more customers who traditionally go to shopping malls, Alexander said. He added that the store is drawing customers from Bridgeport, Guilford, Madison, Branford and other surrounding towns who may not have come to New Haven to shop before.
But in addition to the recent influx of new shoppers, changes in parking costs have arrived as well: Within the last month, Yale University Properties established a new $35 overstay parking penalty for four-hour parking on the Broadway Center lot in front of Apple, which director of University Properties Abigail Rider said is designed so that individuals who need to park all day, such as Broadway employees, use other parking facilities and leave local spaces available. Customers who make purchases and dine at a restaurant within walking distance of the lot are able to stay for six hours before incurring the fine, she said, adding that the policy change is intended to ensure that there is ample parking for shoppers travelling long distances.Broadway Center Lot employee Gus Papadopoulos said that despite customers “giving him a hard time” about what he deemed “crazy” prices, the lot has been more profitable.
Many Apple store customers come from Yale. Students lined up over the weekend hoping to buy a new Apple phone, and 14 out of 22 students interviewed said they will now consult Apple support first when they have computer troubles.
In the past, Yale students in need of tech support had one main resource close to campus — the Student Technology Collaborative. STC, a division of Yale’s Information Technology Services, includes a staff of about 80 Student Techs, who help their peers with tech-related problems. Five are formally trained to work with Apple products, STC Assistant Manager Adam Bray said.
Despite some inconveniences with added foot traffic, students think Apple’s new presence is overall a positive city addition.
“I like that we have an Apple store in New Haven,” Todd Christensen ARC ’13 said. “Besides the fact that Apple stores are cool, I think it helps the restoration and upgrading of the city, which is something New Haven is in need of.”
The Yale Bookstore formerly occupied the lot on which the Apple Store now stands.