Apple, infamous for tightly controlling most aspects of its hardware and software, now supposedly wants to control its retail experience as well—down to the very boxes sitting on its physical shelves.
According to a report from 9to5Mac, the company wants a hand in designing the retail packaging of devices and accessories to give them more Apple-like wrappers.
For Apple, this may be a new high (or low, depending on your point of view). Writer Mark Gurman’s source claims Apple has been working with select third-party manufacturers over the last six months on new designs, and the changes will come into force next week. Those partners apparently cover brands that already have a presence in Apple Stores, including Tech21, Sena, Incase, Mophie, Logitech and Life Proof.
The most likely end result: Rows and rows of largely plain, white boxes with simple fonts, high-quality packaging materials, new photography and more consistent compatibility labeling. The accessories will essentially look a lot like official Apple products. Meanwhile, device makers who refuse to see their containers made over will be shown the door. In other words, inventory for items that don’t follow the new Apple design guidelines will be phased out.
Rumors of the move first surfaced in June, and Apple’s new store on the Upper East Side in New York looks like a sign of things to come. Under SVP of retail Angela Ahrendts, the company’s brick-and-mortar retail outlets seem to be heading in a distinctly premium direction—which is something the Apple Watch will probably help with.
In that context, Apple likely sees brash or unrefined product packaging as the enemy—an eyesore marring the high-end feel it’s going for. That makes perfect sense for Apple, if it wants full control over everything customers see when they walk through its doors. Less so for accessory partners.
Getting into the store to begin with can be a major feat, but product makers will have to decide if keeping their place is worth letting someone else mess with a core marketing and brand-imaging approach like packaging. Some vendors may face a tough decision: Complicate production by creating different designs for Apple stores alone, or extend the tech company’s aesthetics across the whole product line, so that every unit shipped to every other retailer follows suit. Larger companies can manage it, but smaller outfits may struggle with that.
Either way, they have to sign up to Apple’s way of doing business to get or stay in. It’s a price that some are willing to pay for now. But not everyone will agree to Apple’s ultimatum—which means plenty of chargers, cables, cases, headphones, speakers, fitness bands and numerous other gadgets could have to find a new home elsewhere.
Earlier in the year there were whispers the Apple Watch could be in line for its own dedicated store. That hasn’t happened yet, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if it’s still on Apple’s road map—such is the care, attention and perhaps hyperfocus the company seems to be taking in its retail approach.
For now, those wearables remain in high-end luxury stores and Apple’s own shops, hoping its spotlight will glow a little brighter against a more uniform, Applesque backdrop.
Image courtesy of Apple