China’s ‘fake’ Apple stores thrive ahead of new iPhone launch

On a bustling street inChina’s southern boomtown of Shenzhen, more than 30 storescarrying Apple Inc’s iconic white logos peddlepre-orders for the new iPhone, a gadget that has become a statussymbol among many better-off Chinese.

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Many of the stores look just like Apple’s signature outlets, right down to the sales staff kitted out in blue T-shirts bearing the company’s white logo and the sample iPads and iWatches displayed on sleek wooden tables.  But the world’s 2nd-largest smartphone vendor only has one official store in Shenzhen and five authorized dealers in the area. Most of the stores in the roughly 1 km shopping corridor are unauthorized “fakes” – although they are selling genuine Apple products – and their numbers have mushroomed ahead of the release on Friday of the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6s Plus.  The rapid increase in copycat Apple stores underscores the popularity of the brand in China, where it doubled its revenue in the 3rd quarter from a year earlier to more than $13 billion, and suggests the U.S. tech giant is on course to shrug off weakening consumer spending in its 2nd biggest market.   “There are many Apple fans in China,” said a clerk surnamed Zhao at one of the unauthorized dealers that opened just two weeks ago. “There are many silly people in China who are willing to pay extra money just to get a new iPhone ahead of everyone else.”  Apple routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone re-design.  The latest iteration of the iPhone, featuring larger screens and longer battery life, will only be available on the launch date in China to customers who have reserved online, and the company has said pre-order demand has outstripped supply.  Shenzhen’s unauthorized Apple stores are taking advantage, banking on quick-hit gains from re-selling devices bought via authorized sales channels for as much as double the official price to consumers unwilling to wait weeks for stock to arrive.  The fake stores are also taking pre-orders, but say they will have the new phones from Friday.

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