Apple may have opened only four stores in two cities in China so far, but unbeknownst to the company, they are already expanding elsewhere in country.
A blogger in Kunming posted photos on Wednesday of a local store which, from a distance, looked just like one of the consumer electronics giants’ iconic full-service retail stores. It featred a glass exterior, pale wood display tables, a winding staircase and giant posters displaying the iPad 2 and other Apple products, plus a neatly organized accessories wall.
“This was a total Apple store ripoff─a brilliant one,” the blogger, BirdAbroad, wrote. She called it “the best ripoff store we had ever seen.” Photos show employees in blue shirts and Apple-emblazoned name tags similar to those worn by Apple Store employees in Beijing and Shanghai.
It’s unclear whether the store was opened by an authorized Apple reseller, of which the company has more than 10 in Kunming, or another retailer selling Apple products. But its address was not listed among official resellers on the company’s website and Apple currently only has Apple Stores in prime locations in Beijing and Shanghai in China. It wouldn’t be the first time the company has inspired fakes in China, however, where knock-off iPhones and iPads are on display throughout sprawling electronics markets.
Apple, which is in the midst of a plan to expand its presence in China including negotiations with the nation’s largest mobile operator China Mobile, is set to open two more stores, one each in Shanghai and Hong Kong, in the coming months. It has not announced plans to make Southwestern Kunming its next stop. Growing demand for its products over the past two years have drawn a flood of customers to its existing stores, prompting executives to hunt for bigger spaces to build their next locations.
A spokeswoman for Apple in China declined to comment on the store sightings.
Apple relies on a network of authorized resellers to get its products to Chinese consumers around the country, but its own Apple Stores are a key part of the company’s marketing strategy. Apple has historically taken its time in planning out new locations, perhaps for good reason─as convincing as the fake Kunming store was, the blogger observed that “some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly,” perhaps justifying Apple’s slow pace.
Still, employees of the fake store apparently thought they worked for the Cupertino, Calif., company anyway. “Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople,” the blogger wrote. They, “hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple.”
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