Apple channel It tolls for thee

Fleur Doidge
21 February, 2008
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A minute’s silence is in order, I think. I ask all the Mac faithful to take some time out, just now, for just a minute, to think on those who have fallen. Those who fought the good fight but will fight no more.

Yes, I’m talking about the Apple channel. Long have they held the fort against all and sundry. Long may they yet. But I fear they may not. A recent story from Glasgow, Scotland tells why.

Apple a year ago expanded its chain of Apple stores in the UK into Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. More recently, an Apple retailer that had operated for ten years in the city — dubbed, interestingly enough, "Scotsys" — ceased to trade as of 9 February 2008. And Scotsys is blaming Apple, rather publicly.

In a public message released to media, the Scotsys team wrote: "We are very proud of our long-standing retail presence in Glasgow, where Scotsys established the first stand-alone Apple store in the UK.

"We are proud to be seen as a long-standing, trusted provider of Apple products, advice and support, but our business is increasingly focused on providing support to businesses and professionals. Apple [is] better placed in Glasgow to provide an attractive retail proposition for such products as the iPod: we are better placed to provide far more bespoke support and advice to professional and business customers."

An interview with tech title The Register was more direct. John McAleenan, Scotsys managing director, was quoted as saying the retailer believed it couldn’t compete against Apple itself, which opened its store in what is considered a prime Glasgow location just a year ago.

"We tried to fight the good fight but we took a hiding when the new store opened," McAleenan was reported to say. "You just can’t take Apple on head-to-head in the High Street."

Apple is already hiring for its Australian store or stores. Head office, as usual, is playing its cards close to its chest, but resellers for some years now have been concerned about the possible effect on their businesses that one or more of Apple’s supremely successful company outlets may have.

Oh, sure; you can argue that no truly strong and successful business should be frightened of a little competition, and that’s not a wrong or untrue thing in itself. But sometimes merely stepping up the plate and fighting the good fight is not going to save the day.

The Glasgow store was a profitable and growing business committed to providing solutions and services to its core Scottish markets. Its retail sales represented around ten percent of Scotsys’s total revenue. Now, the company will concentrate on its remaining two Scottish locations, in Edinburgh and Bellshill, and focus mainly on business and professional support and services.

Unless Australians are especially different from Glaswegians, the writing may soon be on the wall for similarly successful and profitable Apple retailers here. Some resellers have told me as much. At least one in Australia this year told me it is thinking of diversifying away from Apple before it happens to them. Apple customers with fewer options for support and third-party solutions will likely be the poorer for it.

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