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Now is the winter of our discontent

by Frontline Lamb (, March 21, 2002

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So, now everyone and their dog are writing stories about how Apple is hoarding new Macs for itself and breaking the promises it made to its independent dealers when it opened the Apple Stores. Now, who here is surprised by this development? Certainly not us, the independent Apple dealers.

To quote The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.” It’s not personal that we’re putting you guys six feet under, but we need to make a buck. And show a profit for the Street.

Consider that Apple expected to ship 250,000 new iMacs this quarter. Now consider that it has shipped less than 10 percent of that number this close to the end of the quarter. Fred Anderson may be waking up next to a horse head sometime in April.

Apple has got to do everything in its power to make the numbers look good for this quarter. That especially includes the numbers for the Apple Stores. It’s Apple’s fiduciary responsibility to do so. So Apple gives itself product first and in much larger quantities. Apple fills customer orders first. Apple gets all the easy sales. The word quickly spreads to the Internet that if you want the latest and greatest from Apple, you go to Apple. Not the guys down the street that have been Apple supporters for decades, not the superstores that may have a cheap bundle, and not the mail-order stores that are throwing in everything else in their inventory to make the sale. And you pay more for the privilege.

The new operating procedure for Apple is that it announces a new product and the Apple stores have it the day it is announced. Everyone else gets it the next week. If you are one of those eager buyers that we love, you rush out to the Apple store to buy it. And your extra RAM, And your new printer. And your new digital camera. And your software. And your warranty. If it’s a hard-to-get product like the new iMac, the Apple Stores get them weeks before the independents. In fact many Apple Stores have stock before some independents even get their showroom iMacs. This follows the insult of getting demo models weeks before the independents got them.

Should the independents be angry about all this? Yes. Should they be surprised? Nope. What can the independents do? Not much. They don’t dare make waves with Apple corporate, or they may never see their shipments. They know that nothing they say or do will get Apple to change its ways.

When Apple first opened a retail store, it made great pains to reassure us (though, wisely, not in writing) that it was not here to compete with us, but to build the brand. If we had believed that, we would be contacting a bankruptcy lawyer about now. If you read the feedback on another report on dealer troubles, you see a lot of comments like: “BOO HOO,”“Serves them right,” “I want to support Apple by buying from them directly,” and so on.

Be careful what you wish for. An Apple owner, more than anyone, should know the value of competition. Next time you go to buy a computer, your only choice might be a Dell running Windows XP World-Domination Edition.


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