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Sunday, April 04, 2004, 06:00 pm PT (09:00 pm ET)

Reseller frustration heats up in New Zealand

Apple's global retail strategy is changing, much to the dismay of the company's resellers — the same dedicated group of folks who, arguably, kept the company afloat through its dark ages. Recently, Apple has quietly dissolved its Canadian reseller channel staff, provided buyers with additional incentives to purchase and service products through company owned stores, and become the target of a lawsuit alleging retail impropriety in the United States.

The majority of Apple enthusiast and customers seem to be impartial to changes affecting the reseller channels, adopting the stance of "who cares as long as we get our Apple products and we get them fast and cheap." On the flip-side, resellers around the world are feeling cheated, deceived, and helpless.

The latest episode of Apple's retail saga touched down in New Zealand this week, as Apple and its distribution partner, Renaissance, prepare for the launch of an Apple online store in New Zealand.

"Although the [Renaissance] division has, in the past, sold equipment directly to the education and government markets it will be its first contact with consumers without a channel partner," according to ARNnet. Channel partners are reportedly fuming and see the development as a move by the distributor to compete directly with them for business.

Managing director of Renaissance and head of the Apple division, Paul Johnston, said that consumers will most likely use the online store as a way to browse products, but will ultimately arrive at reseller locations that provide set-up, support and integration when making their purchase.

"He did, however, concede that there might be some resentment in the channel over the online store, but stated that Renaissance manages Apple in New Zealand as an Apple subsidiary would, and was compelled to follow directives from Apple in the US."

The online store will be operated fully by the Apple Division and not Renaissance itself.

Johnston said the store would be launched in phases, and was expected to go online in a matter of weeks with limited functionality.