The wife told me it would be chaos, but I wanted to go down and see the new “Grand Arcade” shopping precinct in Cambridge which opened fully today. When I got there, it was busy, but not chaotic, except for one thing: a massive queue snaking down back into the old Lion Yard precinct next door. There were hundreds of people, young and old. What were they queueing for? Entrance to the new Apple Store, it turned out.
Now, I know Apple stuff is trendy and all that, but these people didn’t look like the sort that were about to drop £1500 on a MacBook Pro. I asked a few at the back what they were queueing for. Now, this is far too small a sample to be a scientific poll, but here are the answers I got:  “I’m not sure, there are a lot of people in the queue, so I hope it’s good”;  “They’re giving away free T-shirts”; and  “They’re giving away free T-shirts”.
The queue was about half an hour long. For a free T-shirt (or worse, just for something unknown which they hoped would be good). Blimey. There’s a lesson to every retailer. Mind you, being applauded in by the Apple Store staff evangelists was an amusing, if slightly alarming, experience.
Anyway, I filmed the sheep (above) and returned later when the queue had, not surprisingly, disappeared. The Apple Store was packed, and I’m sure they did plenty of business, even though you could buy the iPhone in the O2 Store 100m away, iPods in John Lewis 50m away, and Macs at Cancom, 500m away, all in much less frantic surroundings. It’s just like a miniature version of the Apple Store in Regent Street, the only other one I’ve ever visited, so like that store, it’ll be permanently busy with foreign students checking their Hotmail for free. In fact, come the summer, I suspect the queues will be back. Do they actually know how many thousands of overseas students we get in Cambridge every July and August?
The Grand Arcade is very nice, by the way, although it’s “grand” in terms of “plush”, rather than “grand” with a French pronunciation, because they ain’t ever gonna squeeze a large shopping mall in the centre of this city.