Apple launches its biggest store in mainland China, its fifth in the world's most populous nation, facing down swarms of unauthorised vendors selling their products.
SHANGHAI, CHINA (SEPTEMBER 23, 2011) REUTERS - Apple opened its largest store in mainland China on Friday (September 23), at the heart of Nanjing Road, a favourite tourist spot in Shanghai.
Droves of Apple fans queued to be the first to step foot in the store on its opening day.
Staff cheered as the crowd, some who had camped overnight to line up, were allowed into the flagship store at 9 am (0100GMT) local time.
Among the excited customers was 27-year-old Cui Lizhen (pron: chooi-lee-jen), who had flown in from China's northeast city of Yanbian in Jilin province, two days in advance to make sure he could enter the store.
He said this was his second time to be first in line for an Apple Store opening, and events like this was a good opportunity to interact with other Apple fans.
"There are products that I like, and there are friends here. This is a chance for everyone to gather here and interact. We feel it's quite rare to have a chance like this," he said.
This is Apple's fifth store in mainland China and so far its largest.
The company opened its first China store in 2008 in Beijing, and is stretching its footprint in greater China even further with its first official store opening in Hong Kong on Saturday (September 24).
Apple, which makes popular electronic devices such as the iPhone and iPad, is an extremely popular brand name in China, especially among youth and the middle class.
"I like their design philosophy and the ease of use (of their products). Almost everything in my home, except for my desktop is an Apple product," said 27-year-old Zhou Min (prou: djo-min), who came from neighbouring Hangzhou to Shanghai for the opening.
Besides their official Apple stores, the company also sells its products in China through its authorised resellers.
But this pales in comparison with the swarm of unauthorised vendors across the country, selling its products through the gray market in many electronic malls.
Due to the long lead time for Apple to bring products to China, consumers often turn to these stores for smuggled Apple goods or buy pirated versions.
In July this year, entire Apple stores were also found to be faked in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, carrying a similar design as the official flagship stores.
Some analysts say Apple has been too slow in establishing its brand in China, and this has spurred the bumper crop of unauthorised resellers eager to cash in on their popular products.
"Apple has been too American focused in the past. We think China should be the biggest market for Apple in the future, because the consumer demand is so high. We believe Apple should open at least 100 outlets in the next two to three years," said Leo Wang, a business Analyst with the China Market Research Group in Shanghai.
Wang's research company estimates unofficial sales of Apple products outflank official sales by nearly two to one.
Apple Inc has been granted 40 patents in China, which will help them gain more intellectual property protection in the country, China's official newspaper, the China Daily reported.
The report said Apple, whose mobile devices are among the most pirated gadgets in China, was granted the patents on September 9.
The patents cover 37 of its products including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, and the architecture of its three stores in Shanghai, the newspaper said, quoting Patently Apple, a company blog focusing on IP news.
Most of the new patents were related to aspects of its mobile phones, such as user interface and speaker technology, according to the report.
World News >