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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 November, 2004, 15:25 GMT
Apple's flock worships new store
By Paula Dear
BBC News

Shop openings this side of the Atlantic traditionally consist of some feeble ribbon-cutting, a few pictures for the local newspaper, and maybe even a free goody bag for the first lucky customer to pass the threshold.

Apple store, Regent Street
Cheers met those who had braved the cold for the night

But in the world of Apple it was always going to be so much more.

Because judging by those queuing up for the opening of Europe's first Apple store in London on Saturday, their customers are not just buyers, they are believers.

They do not just prefer to use a Mac, they need the world to know how it has changed their life.

The whooping and hollering, high fives from the staff and frenzied countdown to lift-off were all signs of the brand worship that Apple has managed to engender in its followers.

Some had waited 25 hours or more in bitterly cold temperatures to be at the front of the queue. By 11 in the morning - one hour after opening - police were estimating 5,000 had turned up.

Their reward? The opportunity to say they were there and, for the first 300 in the door, the chance to spend 249 on a mystery lucky bag promised to contain more than 700 worth of kit.

The seemingly never-ending line of people snaked around corners and crossed several roads.

Apple had been buying coffees for its loyal fans early in the morning, but many looked as if the only thing that could warm their hearts would be the sight of an iPod in their lucky bag.

I'm just about as loyal as you can get - following Apple is a full-time job in itself
Matt Duffy

Languishing at the back of the queue 25 minutes before the grand opening Stewart Marshall, 31, from Uxbridge, west London, knows he has little chance of feeling warmth in the foreseeable future.

"I just had to be here, though. I wanted to see the opening and support Apple. I'm a Mac user at work, doing post-production stuff.

"I'm always preaching to people about how good Macs are - PC users need to know about it."

With their place in the first 300 secure, Mike Walker, 22, David Ellis, 21, and Nikhil Ladwa, 21, are looking more cheerful.

They have been queuing since 4.30 in the morning and Mike has managed to purloin the thick duvet his friends claim they bought for the occasion.

"We came here to get the lucky bag," says Mike, who is studying aeronautics and describes himself as a "bit of a geek".

"We just spoke to Ron Johnson (Senior Vice President, Apple retail) and he said we might be very lucky, so we're quite hopeful there might be something extra in there."

They are also attracted by the store's 'flagship' status and availability of 30-inch screens and iPod Photo, which they say are harder to get through other retailers.

David Ellis, Mike Walker and Nikhil Ladwa
Mike Walker and his friends had waited 18 hours for a bite of Apple

Just then the staff file past to report for day one in Regent Street. The crowd whips up into a frenzy as high fives and handshakes are dished out US-style.

Waiting patiently at number six in the queue is diehard Mac-user Matt Duffy.

The 34-year-old has travelled from Clydebank, near Glasgow, for the opening and took up his post 25 hours ago.

"I'm just about as loyal as you can get. I spend a lot of the day using the Mac for the web, e-mail and gaming mainly.

"Following Apple is a full-time job in itself. I was at the San Francisco store opening too."

'Welling up'

"It's more like going to see a pop group. They are really cool and they know what they are doing."

Moments later the final countdown begins and Matt joins the first wave to flood into the store. A guard of honour, dressed in black T-shirts, meets the faithful as their big moment finally arrives.

Store manager John O'Grady shouts above the din to declare the store officially open.

He later says he was "welling up" with the emotion of it all.

This could, however, be something to do with the shock of having to move from his beach house in Santa Monica, California, to chilly central London in November.

But he insists the event marks the pinnacle of his career, and even confesses to be enjoying the chance to wear winter clothing.

iPod minis
Most were hoping for the hallowed iPod or iPod mini in their lucky bag

Once the first customers are inside another queue instantly forms at the cash tills, and it looks like Ron Johnson's prediction that all the lucky bags will sell out is going to be spot on.

Most are hoping for an iPod, but none we spoke to had been lucky, including public relations student Marco Fois.

"I was hoping for one, but I got a webcam, Airport Express, a Bluetooth adaptor, wireless mouse and keyboard, software and some other bits and pieces. I'm going to buy an iMac G5 soon so this will all be useful."

Brothers Jamie and Morgan Reid - who queued from Friday night - are more disappointed, though.

"From what we'd heard about other openings, we thought about one-in-three lucky bags had iPods in them. But there were six of us altogether and none of us got one."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See inside the new store



SEE ALSO:
Apple begins European adventure
18 Nov 04 |  Business
10 ways to improve computer shops
19 Nov 04 |  Magazine


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