The day Canadian Apple dealers have been waiting for with mixed emotions will arrive Saturday.
That’s when the first company-owned Apple store in this country opens in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre, one of the biggest in the nation.
Almost 100 Apple Stores are running in the
U.S., which have been greeted with delight by some authorized dealers that the company is extending its marketing, and anger by others who are alleging in court that Apple has tried to put them out of business.
In this country resellers are crossing their fingers.
“I can’t control what Apple does or doesn’t do,” shrugged Ron Paley, president of Carbon Computing in Toronto and a member of the Apple Independent Retailers’ Council.
“I expect them to play fairly. I don’t think they have any intention of harming the channel. It just pokes them in the eye.”
Paley, who said the move is a “good sign” that shows the popularity of Apple products is increasing, believes his store can serve customers more personally, sell third-party peripherals that Apple won’t and offer special services such as business networking that a company store can’t.
In fact, since word became official that an Apple Store was coming Carbon has been preparing, critically examining its customer service, marketing and training, he added.
“We have competitors who have deeper pockets,” he said, noting that some consumers want to buy in a mall. But he said stores like his offer a different shopping experience.
Besides, he added, Carbon’s show floor will have more space than an Apple store.
An Apple spokesman couldn’t be reached by press time to be asked about its Canadian policies on pricing, inventory availability to resellers and the number of stores it will open.
In December, when Apple Canada officially told resellers here of the impending opening, it said it prefers “high traffic” areas.
“It’s a great way to get access to what we call the ‘switcher’ market, – those PC customers that aren’t buying Macs today.” said Mary Percat, Apple Canada’s sales manager. “That’s why I think it should co-exist quite peacefully with our dealers, who serve mostly a (established) Mac market.””
But even at the other end of the country, its moves are being watched by Apple dealers. Gord McOrmond of Vancouver’s Simply Computing said rumours are that his city and Montreal are on the manufacturer’s shopping mall list.
“I don’t think any of the dealers are concerned as long as the playing field stays even,” said McOrmond. “But if Apple decides to slope it in favour of their stores, that’s where the problem will be.”
Between small dealers and chains such as Best Buy, Apple has about 400 outlets here.
“I don’t think they’re going to open 10 stores” in Toronto, said Paley.
“We’ve been told consistently Apple wants to support this channel and wants to see us grow,” said Paley.
While he acknowledged talking to some unhappy Apple retailers in the U.S., he also said he doesn’t know them or how they run their operations.
A dealer recently closed in Kitchener, Ont., he pointed out, without an Apple Store in the city. But he, added, that hasn’t stopped him from opening a branch there next month.