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Week two: Apple stores still finding it tough to keep iPad in stock


Consumers looking for one of Apple's more affordable iPad models may still have trouble finding one at the company's nation retail chain, where the device continues to sell out during its second full week of availability.

A survey of 15 Apple retail stores conducted this week by investment bank J.P. Morgan found that while 11 stores had the 64 model available for purchase, only 4 stores had stock of 16GB and only another 4 had the 32GB model.

"While the sample stores represent a small fraction of the 221 U.S.-based Apple stores, we believe the targeted stores offer a decent barometer given their geographic distribution and importance," said analyst Mark Moskowitz.

For example, stores that were completely selling out of all 3 iPad versions at the time of the analyst's field checks included Palo Alto, Greenwich, CT, and Miami Beach. In contrast, stores that were completely stocked with all 3 models included Chicago, San Francisco, and Kansas City.

Apple is believed to have sold over half a million iPads in less than 10 days. And while Moskowitz believes adoption of the soon-to-ship 3G-equipped models may be lighter than their WiFi counterparts given their higher price points and data plan requirements, he still thinks there could be upside to his iPad unit estimate of 4.8 million units over the first four quarters.

"While the initial excitement could ease, we are surprised by the continued strength in the early stages," he said. "In addition to the new category entry of the iPad, another positive element is that the product’s gross margins are accretive to the corporate model."

In opening up pre-orders for the iPad last month, Apple limited consumers to just two units even if the additional units were being shipped to different individuals across the country. Education customers, especially those ordering through their representatives, weren't hit with the same restriction, however.

But when April 2nd rolled around and regular Apple Store customers began receiving their shipping notifications, a number of those education pre-order customers were being informed that their orders were being placed on the back burner and wouldn't ship to much later in the month.

Instead, Apple chose to stock its retail locations and those of Best Buy, the latter of which sold out during the first weekend the device went on sale. Since then, Apple has slowly expanded distribution to online retailers like MacMall and MacConnection, but is requiring that those resellers only accept orders placed via phone.

For its part, the Apple online store continues to list lead times of 5-7 business days for all new WiFi iPad orders.