European Apple resellers say lack of inventory is putting them out of business
The ongoing struggle was profiled this week by France's Les Echos (via Google Translate). It details a complaint filed last November by eBizcuss, the first authorized reseller of Apple France and the largest in the country, which saw its sales fall 22 percent in its third fiscal quarter of 2011.
eBizcuss has 200 employees and 15 stores, but it is said to be on the verge of bankruptcy. The Apple Premium Reseller has seen its stock price plummet 50 percent over the last year.
The report notes that one of the reseller locations at the Hotel de Ville in Paris is sparsely populated, with just six idle vendors. The store does not carry the iPhone, and employees tell visitors to visit the official Apple store at Rue de Rivoli.
But the Apple Store at the Carrousel du Louvre, which opened in 2009, was said to carry a "completely different atmosphere" when visited 15 minutes later, packed with customers and with plenty of iPhones and iPads in stock.
The report noted that Apple's own retail stores and their continued expansion have marginalized Apple Premium Resellers. That prompted eBizcuss to file an injunction against Apple and threaten to file a complaint of unfair competition to the Competition Authority in France.
Separately, a person who contacted AppleInsider to highlight issues experienced by Apple Premium Resellers claimed that resellers in Sweden and Germany are also about to go bankrupt. That person said they expect that Appel's resellers in the Netherlands will also be negatively affected when Apple opens its first Dutch store on Feb. 18.
Resellers have become a less important part of Apple's business as the company has grown its own retail presence since it launched in 2001. In the company's most recent quarterly earnings report, Apple officials revealed that its retail stores attracted 110 million people, and on average its stores see 22,000 visitors per week.
Though the bulk of Apple's retail locations are in the U.S., the company has been aggressively expanding its footprint internationally. Now, many of the company's most trafficked retail stores are located outside of the U.S.
Authorized resellers who spoke with Les Echos said there has been a chronic shortage of supply for product supply. They also say they are held to standards by Apple they simply cannot meet.
Apple audits its authorized resellers and sends in "mystery shoppers" to make sure everything is up to the company's standards. But French resellers have complained that the inspections are conducted by a British company rather than Apple's French marketing team.
"Ultimately the (Authorized Premium Resellers) have become stores dedicated to Mac, iPhone cases or with after-sale services," one unnamed manager was quoted as saying.
The report notes that while resellers are in the "twilight of a long love affair" that began in 1989, Apple plans to continue to expand its retail locations in France. While there are 9 stores currently located there, it indicated that Apple plans to open "dozens" of new stores in the coming years.