By Caitlin Keating, reporter
FORTUNE -- Everyone -- from J.C. Penney (JCP) CEO Ron Johnson to Barnes & Noble (BKS) CEO William J. Lynch -- wants to bridge the divide between online sales and in-store experience. They might use Saturdays Surf as an example. Saturdays is a surf shop without many surfboards in sight -- they're often stashed in the Manhattan shop's basement. When a customer asks to see the full inventory, Co-owner Morgan Collett takes out an iPad; a surfboard called The Levitator appears on the screen, along with its price and the board's specs. If the customer wants to hold the Levitator, Collet goes down to the basement and carries it upstairs. If the customer wants to buy the board, Collet taps the screen and swipes their credit card through a device attached to the iPad. The software Collett uses to display and sell his products on a tablet is called LightSpeed. It is that bridge.
LightSpeed treats retail inventory a bit like Amazon (AMZN) does. Or, better still, like an Apple (APPL) store. By keeping the bulk of its product out of site -- the surfboards, the boxed computers -- a store manager can focus on creating a space that maximizes the customer experience. In an era when e-commerce allows instant purchases, the goal of a physical store is increasingly to get people to come in, hang out, and thenbuy something. Apple has its Genius Bar. Saturdays has an espresso bar.
About 10,000 stores already use LightSpeed, and the number is fast growing. In June, the company received a $30 million Series A investment from Accel Partners, which Ryan Sweeny -- a partner at Accel -- says will be used to expand into larger retail stores. But the power of the software extends beyond the confines of the store itself. As Steve Metzman, CEO of iBusiness Technologies, puts it, "We encourage retailers to load their device with all of their products and attend outside events. It enables people to communicate on an even playing field with the web."
A shorter version of this story originally appeared in the August 13, 2012 issue of Fortune.
PC sales were down 8% Thanksgiving week, but demand for the MacBook Air was strong
In a note to clients Thursday, Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty rattled off several reasons to explain why retail sales of personal computers in the U.S. were down 8% year over year for the week of Nov. 20 to 26, as reported by the NPD Group.
Hard drive shortages, the lingering effects of flooding in Thailand
Price reductions in MORE
A three-minute YouTube tour, shot during Apple's (AAPL) press preview Wednesday, two days before the grand opening scheduled for Friday Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. (Free T-shirts for the first 4,000 visitors.)
The space was occupied today only by Apple staffers and representatives of the media. It may never be so empty again.
See also our report from inside the store here and Apple's press release here.Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 7, 2011 1:19 PM ET
2 Genius Bars, 45 display tables, 3 walls of accessories, free Wi-Fi and no "public" toilets
Apple is reported to have paid $5 million to Metrazur Restaurant to buy out the eight years remaining on its Grand Central Terminal lease.
We suspect both sides of the deal got a bargain.
Metrazur, judging from the reviews in Yelp before it closed, was famous for strange sauces and slow service.
Apple (AAPL), judging from a tour of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 7, 2011 11:22 AM ET
To lure customers and boost sales, stores are deploying cool smartphone apps. Will consumers buy into the latest shopping fad?
By Caitlin Keating, reporter
FORTUNE -- Scott Thompson, president and CEO of eBay's PayPal unit (EBAY), says that he is one of those people who drives to Starbucks, sees the long line, and keeps on driving. "I'm on the go. I wish I could have stopped, but I don't have time," Thompson MORENov 25, 2011 5:00 AM ET
Hint: See the head shot, center row left, in the current "Apple Leadership" page
Jean-Louis Gassée, who worked for Apple from 1981 to 1990 and once held Steve Jobs' job as head of Mac development, was planning to use the Apple Store's 10th anniversary last May as the theme for one of his always insightful Monday Note columns. But when the day came and went without an Apple-sized splash, he sensed MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 17, 2011 7:04 PM ET
|The Obamacare myth about small business|
|Make $30 an hour, no bachelor's degree required|
|Apple set for showdown on Capitol Hill over corporate taxes|
|Judge rules Airbnb illegal in New York City|
|JPMorgan's Dimon wins by a landslide|