An Apple employee polishes a display during a media preview, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 in New York. The 23,000-square-foot personal electronics business in Grand Central Terminal will open Friday. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Apple is making it easier than ever to spend money — especially in cyberspace linked to the mammoth new store that opened at Grand Central Terminal in New York City Friday.
Visitors to the landmark train station can buy personal electronics without the help of a human being. They just slide an iPhone across a product's bar code and grab the item. The receipt comes by email.
The 23,000-square-foot store opened Friday. It's one of the world's largest Apple retail venues, with more than 300 employees, and the fifth Apple store in New York City.
Company representatives offered the media a preview on Wednesday, demonstrating products and services.
"It's all about putting the customer in charge," said Bob Bridger, the company's vice president for retail real estate and development.
And it's all about making money — an estimated $100 million or more in sales a year, according to business analysts.
The owner of the space, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city's bus and subway system, says Apple Inc. is paying $180 per square foot for its lease — slightly less than the $200-per-square-foot top rate at the century-old Manhattan train hub.
By leasing to Apple, the MTA says it is quadrupling the rent for Grand Central's east balcony and an adjacent one overlooking the cavernous main concourse with its famed night-sky ceiling. The store includes a basement storage area that was never leased before.
The transit agency says the draw of the Apple name promises to increase foot traffic to other businesses at the terminal, which is visited by about 750,000 people daily and is home to the Metro-North commuter railroad.
The company is counting on commuters who ride Metro-North from Westchester County. They can order an item on their cellphone, and it'll be waiting for them when they get off the train.
The Grand Central store offers one feature not available at any other Apple store: 15-minute training sessions for rushed New Yorkers.
Apple, behind Macintosh computers and such iconic products as the iPod, the iPad and the iPhone, signed a 10-year lease with the MTA for the space once occupied by Charlie Palmer's Metrazur restaurant, which got $5 million from Apple to clear out early.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the $180-per-square-foot cost reflects the $5 million payment to the restaurant, plus Apple's $2.5 million capital investment in the space and a $1.1 million annual rate that will rise each year of the lease.
Apple will not share any portion of its revenue with the MTA, as do other retailers at the terminal.
Donovan said Apple is considered an anchor tenant at Grand Central — equivalent to a prominent store in a mall that serves as an attraction surrounded by smaller retailers. Typically, an anchor tenant doesn't share revenue.
The MTA, when asked to respond to questions about whether it had cut Apple a special deal, issued a statement saying there was nothing improper about the lease contract.
The spotlight on the latest Apple store accompanies the intense public profile of the Cupertino, Calif.-based company in the wake of the October death of its founder, Steve Jobs.