Singapore Mac users, let me pose a question to you.
Where did you buy your last Mac?
In recent years, due to the sudden increase of the popularity of Macs, many local computer and consumer electronics chain jumped on board the Apple bandwagon and became Apple resellers.
Which spiked a lot of comments of the non-Mac people and casual consumers to say “Wah. Apple opening more Apple Stores in Singapore leh. Cool”.
They probably never thought that they could not be more wrong.
Apple don’t have a single Apple Store in Singapore. More new Apple resellers are just opening up. And this might not be such a good thing after all.
Let me explain, with my limited knowledge of Apple reseller policy from working with various resellers and Apple Singapore, how the retail side of things work.
Before I start though, forget the Apple Online Store. The Apple Online Store is really Apple. And is probably the only place you should buy from if you want protection from sudden changes in line-up.
For example, if you buy a MacBook today, and a new one comes out tomorrow, you are stuck with the old one if you buy it from a retail store in Singapore. That includes buying it from Universities, if Sapura still has not changed their policy. If you buy it from the Apple Online Store though, you can ask for an exchange. Therefore, the much safer purchase route.
Okay back to retail. There are basically two types of retail resellers, the normal reseller and the Apple Premium Reseller(APR). The former, well, no exact rules to buying and selling. The latter though, have to follow a strict policy of how to sell their Macs. Their stores’ design and display have to be advised and checked by Apple Singapore, and the inventory they carry have to follow strict rules as well, such as having no competitors’ computers.
Resellers don’t have to be strictly APR though. For example, Pacific City has a branch in IMM Singapore that is APR, having the Apple Store concept and design, with no Acer computers in the same store, but for their other stores in eg. Marina Square and Plaza Singapore, they are non-APR and Pacific City could carry Acers in them. And since the non-APR stores don’t have to follow Apple’s rules, they could place whatever they like in the display, even if it’s not the current lineup.
Which brings us back to the problem that prompted me to write this post in the first place. While in the olden days (just 3 or 4 years ago really, not THAT old), even the old non-APR resellers(like SGL Marketing, an old-time MUGS favourite vendor, or Pacific City, who occasionally broke the rule and tried to sell old stock a day after the new ones are released) will be nice enough not to openly display old models without specifically stating that they are for clearance, these days I see a lot of new non-APR resellers doing exactly the opposite.
For example, I saw certain non-APR resellers (but fashioned their stores to look very very APR-like with white furniture and green t-shirts) displaying, in the following order, their MacBooks. MacBook White, MacBook Unibody, MacBook Pro OLD, MacBook Black, MacBook Pro Unibody, with nothing to differentiate between the old lines and the new lines. I suspect that, unless you say specifically, no one is going to tell you the difference.
What is wrong with this?
The problem here is that, a casual non-Apple-fan consumer might decide to buy a present for a relative, walks into a Song Brothers store(of Sim Lim Square “fame”), looks at the MacBook range, and decided to buy a MacBook Black thinking that it’s not really that different from other MacBooks. Note that, here I am assuming the staff who served the consumer is nasty and did not warn the consumer that it is old stock and not the latest range when buying. Note again, however, that resellers have a higher priority to sell off their old stock since Apple will never take it back, and might give their promoters more incentive to sell off old stock. So the consumer buys the MacBook Black, gives it to the relative only to have the relative complain that it is not the latest MacBook Unibody and that the consumer did not even buy the MacBook Black at refurbished prices (maybe cheaper than it used to be, but not as cheap as refurbished ones), causing unhappiness.
And then, because the consumer have no knowledge that it’s really the reseller and not Apple, blames Apple for selling old stock openly.
Some may argue that the resellers have to sell off their old stock. Can’t the resellers be nice enough to place them away from the latest range and put a big tag “For clearance! Good discounts!” on them?
Maybe they can’t. Sometimes when the line refreshes prices drop, and since the resellers are making marginal profits (Apple sells the systems to reseller at near MSRP), they can’t knock that much off the price.
It seems that Apple is being terrible to their resellers here, as Apple won’t take back old stock, but do you hear iShop, Multimedia Integrated, and Epicenter complaining? (They do grumble, but not openly) You don’t. Cause local resellers make their profits by marking up the prices of cheap accessories.
In the end, the resellers themselves chose to become resellers, so they can’t complain. But consumers do have a choice of not buying from these formerly long-time Sim Lim Square mindset-based Apple resellers, that offers the Sim Lim Square buying experience instead of one that is Apple-crafted.