Apple Sniffs Out Solution to Retail Store Odor Problem

Source: Apple.comEver since the first Apple (AAPL) Store opened in 2001, the retail chain has received accolades for its unique store design and unmistakable branding. Apple Stores typically feature sparse, minimalist interiors constructed from wood, stone, and glass materials. The combination of a knowledgeable retail staff, premium products, and well-designed interiors has given Apple the most successful retail stores in the U.S. According to Fast Company, Apple Stores average sales per square foot at over $6,000.

Obviously, Apple’s retail success means that the Apple Stores receive a considerable number of visitors each day. According to some customers, this has led several Apple Stores to develop a highly unpleasant feature: a strong smell of human body odor. The Street’s Rocco Pendola recently explored this problem after he was alerted by a friend that the Santa Monica Apple Store had a particularly strong odor, especially in the morning around opening time.

While the smell at the Santa Monica Apple Store could simply be due to hot weather, large crowds, or other unique environmental factors, a quick Google (GOOG) search conducted by Pendola revealed that reports of bad smells at Apple Stores is not an uncommon customer complaint. My own Google search found forum discussions about smelly Apple Stores dating back to at least 2007.

In order to sniff out the source of the problem, Pendola made an incognito visit to the Santa Monica Apple Store. Although one employee told Pendola that the bad odor was simply due to “human beings,” other sources have noted that the odor could also be due to the large number of computers running in a relatively small space. As noted by ValueWalk, computers generate chemical smells and carbon monoxide. While one or two computers may not create a noticeable smell, dozens of operating computers in an Apple Store can apparently generate a strong smell that resembles human body odor.

Not surprisingly for a company that is known to pay attention to small details, Apple is well aware that some of its retail stores have an odor problem. As reported by The Street’s Pendola, one Apple employee at the Santa Monica store revealed that Apple has installed dozens of high-tech “sniffers” at various points around the store. The “sniffers” detect odors and gases like carbon monoxide and activate the store’s ventilation system when the odors reach a certain level.

Although this system appears to solve the odor problem at most stores, the unnamed employee claimed that the “sniffers” at the Santa Monica location were inadvertently installed too high. This has led to a particularly strong odor problem at that store. However, according to The Street, Apple is working on a solution to the Santa Monica store’s “B.O.” problem.

Pendola also noted that the Santa Monica location opened in 2012, while the company’s retail leadership was in flux between the tenure of Ron Johnson and former Dixon CEO John Browett. Pendola speculated that the issue at the Santa Monica Apple Store may have been neglected during the transition period. However, there is no evidence that the leadership change was related to this particular store’s problem. Either way, Apple’s retail operations will soon acquire a new leader when Angela Ahrendts, the current CEO of Burberry, begins her job at Apple this spring.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

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