By Richard Menta 3/8/09
I swear that was a tumblweed I saw rolling past me at the Menlo Park Mall on this early Thursday afternoon. The mall seemed more like a large movie set of a mall rather than a mall itself. That is how few people were rustling about its corridors and digging through bursting clearance racks for bargains. The sinking economy is taking its toll and as I walked through the near-empty promenade I found several chain stores have already closed for good. It wasn't pretty. As I drew closer to the Macy's side of the mall I came to the Apple store.
The Apple store was not overflowing with people, but there was a good number of folk in there. The contrast was unmistakable as it was by far the busiest store. There were 24 shoppers along with a dozen or so sales staff, all perusing and talking about the latest iPod and Mac choices. While the other stores played dead, Apple was vibrant; serving a mix of shoppers and those seeking service and advice. We are in a difficult retail environment and Apple appears to be weathering it relatively well.
I took a walk to the Sony Style store, which is located in another wing of the mall. Where the atmosphere at the Apple store was alive and animated, Sony Style was empty. Despite the fact that Sony Style offers a much broader product pallet all I found inside were three bored sales people with not much to do. The displays were not only perfect, they looked enticing. The products lay undisturbed and there was no need to clean or straighten up. The Sony store looked wonderful - except there were no customers.
This says a lot about the fortunes of the two companies. Nothing scientific here, just telling observation between how Apple is doing and how Sony is.
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