Unconfirmed reports that Apple is to take retail space in a new development on London's Regent Street have prompted mixed reactions from UK resellers.
Darren King of Square Group slammed Apple, telling Macworld: "A reseller should not have to compete with the manufacturer. We already have to compete with the Apple Store, and the Apple Business Store, now we will be competing with them in every sector of the market."
But despite his concerns, King doesn't think Apple will be able to live up to the example set by resellers such as Square Group. He noted: "Apple are not easy for us resellers to deal with. They struggle to manage the channel – let alone end users."
He believes that Square Group and other resellers can offer something Apple will be able to provide though its outlet: "There will be a fundamental difference between the two types of store. We can offer so much more than Apple will be able to. For example, we have a good understanding of customers' needs, and we can offer credit, and so on. The other thing we can rely on is customer loyalty."
King is resigned to the fact that London resellers are likely experience a drop in sales at Christmas, when the Apple Store opens, but trusts that, "people are loyal in this market place".
Computer Warehouse's Jonathan Cole doesn't expect Apple to make a profit should it open the store, adding: "I don't think that is its intention."
Not in our backyard However, non-London resellers are not overly concerned. KRCS's Keren Gilfoyle-McGroarty said: "Because we serve customers outside London we are not too interested in what happens within the M25."
She believes Apple's move could be good news for the UK's resellers: "If Apple get a retail foothold in a prime retail location it can only be good for the brand as a whole, which is also good for Apple resellers."
But not all regional resellers are complacent about Apple's retail presence in the UK. Steve Paris of MacConsultancy in Bristol admitted: "We've heard of so many horror stories about US resellers being left out in the cold that I'm happy that – for now – they're staying away from Bristol."
One Macworld reader believes that if Apple does open a retail outlet this will be good news for resellers in the UK. "This retail investment can hardly cause the present retail situation to deteriorate and may kick-start an improvement across the UK generally."
Another added: "A lease in Regent Street at least demonstrates commitment to the UK. With a £1.5m per annum rental someone at Apple will be keeping its eye on the ball with a focus not previously seen in the Mac UK retail market."
Another believes Apple "will define a reference point for dealers who will look to the new store and find ways of offering something beyond what is offered there – adding value".
One Macworld Online forum contributor notes that "many small dealers are already moving away from hardware sales and offering consultancy and support, it's far more lucrative".
Another points out that some resellers will be able to offer one thing which Apple wont: "Car parking spaces outside the door."
Another agrees: "It simply wouldn't be practical for many customers to turn up at Regent Street and buy a G5, screen and printer to take away. The cab fare would exceed any normal shipping charge and the alternative of getting your car to the shop would be horrendous."
Some readers are noncommittal as to whether Apple will make a success of the venture. "Good Mac dealers should have nothing to fear from a flagship store. I have considerable suspicions about any dealer who fears that prospect," said one.