LOS GATOS, Calif. – Not a cash register is in sight. The electronics on display are all powered up and ready for use.
Personal trainers, specialists and newly minted concierges in aqua blue shirts make the Apple Store feel part salon, part Internet cafe — just without the espresso.
Over the past year, Apple Inc. has revamped its 201 stores, changing the layout, adding services and increasing its staffing.
The "concierge" service that Apple launched last week is only the latest initiative designed to draw more visitors and bolster already record-breaking sales.
"Apple indeed does things differently from the rest of the retail gang," said Kurt Barnard, president of the Barnard Retail Consulting Group.
Clipboard-carrying concierges greet customers at the door to direct them to the right section of the store or to the personal shopper or trainer with whom they had made an appointment.
Several others mill the floor in case someone has a question or is ready to buy an iPod, an iPhone or a Macintosh computer.
With cash registers removed, a common question nowadays is, "Where do I pay?" The store employee would instantly reply, "Right here," and whip out a portable scanner from a hip holster.
Receipts are e-mailed on the spot or, if the customer prefers, a paper version emerges from printers hidden underneath display tables.
The products are usually brought in from storage in the back, but starting Friday and through the holiday season, Apple has designated an "express shopping" section, with inventory on the store floor ready for purchase.
A few customers who were using cash on Black Friday, though, experienced some delays, said Glenn Branney, who was visiting from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and bought an iPod Touch and iPod Nano before dawn at Apple's flagship store on New York City's Fifth Avenue.
Apple started eliminating checkout areas at stores last year and has now finished arming each store employee with handheld scanners for faster transactions.
That has freed up space for shiny wares or one-on-one consultations. The 11-foot counter used in the past for the "Genius Bar," the in-store technical support section, has been extended to about 35 feet per store.
It's not uncommon to find people dropping in to hang out, use the Internet or let their children play on the Macs on low-legged tables. Personal blog entries, complete with snapshots of the authors in the store, are sometimes written on the spot.
"We try to pattern the feeling to a 5-star hotel," said Apple's retail chief, Ron Johnson. "It's not about selling. It's about creating a place where you belong."
Nonetheless, sales are flying high.
The retail stores hosted more than 100 million visitors and produced about $4.2 billion in revenue in Apple's fiscal year that ended in September, up nearly 24 percent from $3.4 billion the previous year — in line with the Cupertino-based company's overall sales growth.
The "one-to-one" personal training service that Apple stores launched two years ago is also becoming more popular, Johnson said. He declined to give specific growth figures.
For $99 a year, a customer gets up to one hour a week to learn about a wide-range of subjects tailored to the customer's interest or abilities. The program is for beginners and experts alike and can cover how to set up computers, make movies, build Web sites or put together a scrapbook or family newsletter.
Analysts say Apple's approach to retailing is exemplary in the industry. But most merchants don't have the same concentration of products or the coveted gizmos that are luring people to Apple to begin with, many for the first time.
"Nothing responds more quickly in attracting consumers than a new experience and a new merchandise assortment," Barnard said. "And Apple has that going for it."
Apple has sold more than 120 million of its market-leading iPod digital media players, introducing millions of people to Apple's design aesthetics.
And Apple says that more than half of the computers sold at Apple stores are to people new to the Macintosh platform. After hovering for years with a 2 percent to 3 percent share of the PC market in the United States, Apple's slice has now grown to 8 percent, according to market researcher Gartner Inc.
The iPhone, launched in June as Apple's first foray in the cell phone market, has also brought newcomers, Johnson said.
The stores are "the front face for Apple now," Johnson said. "And we've got so many new customers that we really have to help them understand our services."