Declining retailers Macy's Inc. (M) and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) , to name but a few, should have been sitting front and center taking notes at Apple Inc.'s Inc. (AAPL) big event on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

If they had, they would've learned how Apple stores attract 500 million visitors per year, according to Angela Ahrendts, Apple senior vice president of retail, who spoke at Tuesday's event. That's surely a figure Macy's and J.C. Penney would kill for, along with almost every department store getting crushed by dwindling sales and light foot traffic. Plus, they could've picked up on some of Apple's new, interactive merchandising plans for its stores.

Plans include Today at Apple, in-store community-oriented programs, and Genius Groves, redesigned service areas.

"We think of Apple retail as Apple's largest products," Ahrendts said. "Some new stores in big cities have built-in plazas and forums."

Angela Ahrendts discussing Apple's 'town squares.'
Angela Ahrendts discussing Apple's 'town squares.'

She said not to call Apple locations "stores. Call them town squares." The company wants customers of the world's leading tech company to view its stores as destinations where they can learn about and discover Apple products, not just buy them. But, of course, the goal is to get them to buy Apple products while they're there.

Along with unveiling the iPhone 8, the 8 Plus and the 10th anniversary edition iPhone X at the event, Apple said it will open a Chicago flagship store on Michigan Avenue, the city's main shopping district, on Oct. 20. Plus, Apple will build a "town square," complete with outdoor seating, around its Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York City.

Gene Munster, partner at Loup Ventures, told TheStreet in August that Apple stores are the new mall anchors, taking the burden from depleted department stores.

Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL? Learn more now.

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Editors' pick: Originally published Sept. 12.

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