The UK's first dedicated iPod store has opened its doors in London, just in time for the Christmas shopping rush.
Once you popXpress, you can't stopXpress
Celebrating the opening of the store, managing director Jonathan Cole explained how the concept and name came to him in a dream.
"When I woke up I wrote it down straight away," said Cole." The idea is that this is the fastest place to buy an iPod."
It's a year and a half since Cole's inspired dream, but such ideas take time to get off the ground. "Finding suitable property was a challenge," Cole revealed.
Location, location, location
The first popXpress opened on Wednesday in New Street, a side road off Bishopsgate, directly opposite London's Liverpool Street station and right in the heart of the city. The store is small – it would seem overcrowded with more than 10 people present – but it is minimalist and takes on Apple's style.
So why open in the city rather than in a more traditional shopping location such as Oxford Street?
"There is no point in us being next to an Apple Store – at least not for now," Cole said, revealing that popXpress had been offered locations near Apple Stores that have already opened in the UK. "We'd like to have a clear run of it," he said.
But this doesn't mean that popXpress won't be seen in London's shopping centre. "We'll be opening about 12 stores around the country and we intend to open the next store this January in Piccadilly. We are also looking at other locations in London, including Covent Garden, and will open out-of-town stores in other locations, such as Oxford."
Cole feels that the Liverpool Street location is a good one for the birth of his iPod-store concept. This isn't the first music themed shop to take advantage of the location, Cole revealed. "Before we moved in it was a Rider Sounds shop that was doing very well," he said.
He also believes that city workers on their lunch break will be a very lucrative market for the new store. "Between 12.30 and 2pm more than 2,000 people walk past the door," Cole revealed.
Money to burn
"People around here have lots of money to spend," he speculated. Discussing the idea that big corporations might choose to give workers iPods this Christmas, thanks to Apple's recently launched bulk-buy scheme, Cole joked that staff would need to accessorise their new iPod to make it unique.
"We also like the fact that we can make use of three floors," Cole added. One way that he is utilising the whole height of the building is with a gigantic banner that will be visible from Liverpool Street station. Apple has helped with the look and feel of this, and much of the rest of the store. "Apple has been very supportive of what we are doing," Cole said.
Is a physical location really necessary, or wise, in the current climate? Recent figures have suggested that this year Christmas shoppers will turn away from the high street and onto the internet to search for their Christmas gifts. With so many alternative iPod-dedicated stores to be found online, what does a physical retail location, as well as an online one, add to the mix for popXpress?
Cole is convinced that the retail experience is important to the customer. "People can come and see us," he said. "Customers can play with products and see demonstrations. Most of all, it's real!"
The retail-store concept has certainly worked for Apple, with analysts suggesting that the Apple Store, combined with the halo effect of the iPod, has brought many new customers to the Mac platform.
Cole claims his store will offer more iPod-related stock than Apple's Regent Street location. "We have done a lot of work securing products and we have a larger range than Apple has in its own stores," he said.
PopXpress is also launching its own brand of Popxtras products, the first of these a leather flip-case for the video iPod.
Popxpress will also stock its own brand of iTunes vouchers that can be activated at the iTunes Music Store by entering a code.
The store will carry products from the likes of Podgear, Altec Lansing and DLO. As managing director of Computer Warehouse, Cole benefits from many years' experience in the Mac market – experience and contacts that have helped him get the popXpress concept off the ground.
PopXpress isn't forgetting its Mac heritage – a PowerBook currently takes pride of place at the front of the store – but Cole emphasises: "This place is all about selling iPods and accessories. We see ourselves as the 21st-century music store. People used to buy music in Virgin and HMV and now they buy their music online, but they can buy the accessories to go with it here.
"We just want to be the best place to buy an iPod."
But Cole's team won't turn down the opportunity to sell a Mac to an interested customer. He revealed that they sold a Mac mini to a customer the day after the shop opened.
Visit popXpress at number 1a New Street, London EC2M 4TP.
This story first appeared on Macworld.co.uk