Editorial: London’s Calling Apple
By Peter Cohen,
Apple opens its first European Apple Store on Saturday, on Regent Street in London’s West End. In a special press tour of the store earlier this week, Apple’s vice president of retail Ron Johnson told the assembled reporters that this is the
first of three stores
Apple will open in England in the coming months, and he indicated that Apple has plans to expand its retail operations farther into Europe next year. How likely is it to affect the regional Apple dealerships?
The London location is another flagship store, like ones Apple has set up in New York, Tokyo, Chicago and Los Angeles — a grand glass, steel and wood showcase for Apple products located in London’s best shopping district. It’ll be a fantastic place for tourists and London residents alike to get their hands on Apple products, have their questions answered, and learn more about how to get the most from their Macs. Maybe it’ll even turn into a
for trendy London singles.
Ever since Apple opened its first retail locations in California and Virginia, the company has faced opposition from some resellers who are concerned that Apple shows favoritism to its own retail stores over the companies that have built its retail channel for decades. More than one reseller has cited its inability to get new products as a reason to stop selling Mac goods or go out of business all together. It’s a fair criticism, although it can be countered that Apple Stores are showcases for Apple products, so it’s only to be expected that they’ll get first dibs on hard-to-stock products like new iPods or hot new Mac models. Some of the independent Apple resellers I’ve spoken with recognize the situation and are resigned to making the best of it, hoping Apple will leave them alone to their areas.
Besides being a sizeable (and increasing) revenue draw for Apple, the big benefit of the Apple Stores is a uniform customer experience. Regardless of whether you’re in Glendale, Calif. or London, England, you can expect some of the same things: A clean presentation, new hardware and software sold at market prices, knowledgeable Apple employees who don’t work on commission, a Genius Bar (unless you’re visiting a new mini store), and a host of third-party software and peripherals you can use on your Mac. Apple is also quick to point out that its store locations often sell Macs to first-time Mac buyers — presumably people just in off the mall thoroughfare, or computers purchasers who are curious to see what all the hubbub is about.
Apple’s attempted to leverage some control over how third party resellers in the U.K. present its products by establishing a network of “Apple Centres” — an elite group of retailers who must meet stringent guidelines for how their Apple equipment and software is presented, supported and sold. It appears that only a handful of Apple Centers and other Mac retailers in the areas around Birmingham and Kent will be affected by Apple’s decision to open stores there, but time will tell.
With more than 90 retail stores open in the U.S. — most of which are a reasonable drive away from the majority of the U.S. population — expansion into Europe is a logical choice for Apple. The company would seemed to have learned from Gateway’s mistakes and won’t open stores unless it can do so profitably. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t Apple’s only international expansion: Late on Friday, MacCentral received confirmation from Apple that it is going to be
opening stores in Canada
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