Apple is no stranger to competitors copying its products. From Microsoft to Samsung, Apple’s tasteful hardware and intuitive software is often emulated but rarely duplicated. To be fair, when a company is as innovative as Apple is, being copied just comes with the territory.
Copying products is one thing, but copying Apple’s entire retail store operation takes chutzpah to a whole new level.
Early last week we reported via the BirdAbroad blog that a number of counterfeit Apple retail stores were spotted in the Chinese city of Kumming. These fake Apple Stores were constructed to mimic the real thing in every way possible, from the wooden display tables to a winding staircase, no detail was left off the table. Of course, the quality of materials used wasn’t up to Apple standards, but the aesthetic was impressively similar to the real thing.
Further, many employees in the store genuinely believed they were working for Apple. And hell, why wouldn’t they given that they were given the same style of T-shirts given to real Apple employees across the globe and official looking nametags to boot.
News of these fake Apple Stores garnered an immense amount of attention in the Apple blogosphere, eventually prompting the WSJ to try and get in contact with the store’s managers. Not surprisingly, those efforts were less than successful, but a salesmen that was able to be reached explained that the stores do sell genuine Apple products at the same prices advertised at legit Apple retail locations.
BirdAbroad said in a post Wednesday that store staff she spoke to appeared to believe they were employees of Apple. The staffer reached by phone was under no such illusion. “It doesn’t make much of a difference for us whether we’re authorized or not,” he said. “I just care that what I sell every day are authentic Apple products, and that our customers don’t come back to me to complain about the quality of the products.”
As a non-authorized reseller, many of the products in the fake Apple Stores come from Apple’s official retail stores in the country. Notably, those stores have had a number of issues with customers purchasing products in bulk for purpose of resale. Smuggling in Apple products from abroad is yet another way these stores are able to build up inventory.