While Apple undertakes the painstaking work required to open amazing retail stores in China, there are competitors who have taken a less meticulous approach and have opened their own, less-amazing “Apple Stores.” A woman living and working in the south-central city of Kunming discovered one of the stores recently, staffed with blue-shirted employees who believe they actually work for Apple Inc. In a blog entry she posted today, photos of one fake store show wood display tables, stone and wood floors, acrylic information panels, wall-mounted graphics, iPads on tilted stands, and a circular staircase to the second level. The employees even have white lanyards around their necks with white plastic name tags. Apple does have authorized resellers in China, but with strict controls on their appearance and branding. However, the photographed store is not listed among Apple’s resellers in the country. In her blog post, BirdAbroad says, “We struck up a conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple.” As she tried to take some photos of the store, five employees approached and asked her to stop. However, after she implied she and a companion were Apple employees visiting from America, the staff turned friendly and allowed her to snap some photos. Later, during a walk around her neighborhood in the city of 6.8 million residents, she found two more look-alike stores, one with a sign that proclaimed, “Apple Stoer.”
Apple has a network of authorized resellers outside the United States, including about 138 resellers in China, who operate “Apple Shops.” Their interior design is similar to Apple’s own retail stores, but is Apple-controlled to differentiate them from company-owned stores. The restrictions cover Apple’s brand, including the back-lit logo and other design elements found in Apple-owned stores (photos below).
The photographed store is located at 23/25 Zhengyi Lu, and is not on the list of Apple’s authorized resellers. The other two stores photographed in the original post are located along Remin Zhonglu. Neither of those two locations is listed among Apple’s authorized resellers.
Update – July 22, 2011: The story remains hot, as BirdAbroad says she’s received calls from every major news organization around the world, and that local reaction is building. The Reuters news agency has visited the store and obtained customer reaction.E-mail this story