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Monday, December 20, 2004, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple dealers struggle to obtain product

Several offerings from Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer are a hot ticket this holiday shopping season, leaving not only consumers, but also the company's resellers scrounging for product.

According to recent shipping estimates, consumers seeking a 40GB Apple iPod this holiday season can look to the company's online store, where the digital music player will ship in 1-3 business days. However, when an authorized reseller places the same order through Apple, this wait time escalates to 7-10 days.

The case is similar for Apple's highly-sought 20GB iPod and iPod mini players, which again will ship directly from the company within 3 days. Astoundingly, reseller orders for the same products carry wait times of up to 3 weeks.

But this trend is not iPod-specific. Mac dealers around the country must come to terms with waiting over one week for new shipments of the company's 17-inch iMac G5 this holiday season. Likewise, both variants of this new all-in-one desktop will ship to consumers within 3 days if they order direct.

This latest data has left some devoted Apple dealers to question how long they can survive in the niche Mac market, which is governed by a company that is rapidly expanding its own retail presence in addition to serving customers through its online store.

In all fairness to Apple, dealers acknowledge a wide-spread shortage of the iPod this December due to incredible demand. Still, they argue that this does not explain why they are apparently last in line to receive orders for Apple's Macintosh-based computer products.

Looking ahead, the future for independent Apple dealers ceases to look promising. Already in operation of 100 retail stores world-wide, Apple reportedly retains an internal scouting list of over 600 potential US-based retail locations. This in addition to its hit-list of over two dozen Japan retail locations.

Exactly how many stores Apple ultimately plans to open, and how long Apple resellers can survive amongst them, remains unknown. However, in the words of one Apple dealer, "one thing is for sure—each new Apple retail store that opens for business is yet one more store we resellers must compete against when trying to obtain products at times like these."