Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Apple Store

From fake eggs to Louis Vuitton knock-offs, China’s counterfeiting prowess is well known.
But the country’s ever resourceful entrepreneurs have taken counterfeiting (and copyright infringement) to a whole new level with – get this – a whole fake Apple store, complete with a Genius Bar, transparent staircase and blue t-shirted staff.
That, at least, is what this expat found in Kunming, Yunnan’s capital city in southwest China – and then she found two more.
RP and I went inside and poked around. They looked like Apple products. It looked like an Apple store. It had the classic Apple store winding staircase and weird upstairs sitting area. The employees were even wearing those blue t-shirts with the chunky Apple name tags around their necks.
I know, you guys are laughing: an Apple store in Kunming? No one who doesn’t know me personally has ever heard of Kunming before. Kunming is the end of the Earth. It’s all true – but seriously, China warps your mind into believing that anything is possible, if you stay here long enough.
An Apple store in Kunming is not as impausible as it sounds. As the blogger herself noted, a number of major Western brands – including Starbucks, H&M, McDonald’s and KFC – have all set up shops in this city of 7m already, so why not Apple?
However, a quick glance at Apple’s website shows that, in China, there are only genuine stores in Beijing and Shanghai.
You have already guessed the punchline, of course: this was a total Apple store ripoff. A beautiful ripoff – a brilliant one – the best ripoff store we had ever seen (and we see them every day). But some things were just not right: the stairs were poorly made. The walls hadn’t been painted properly.
Apple never writes “Apple Store” on it’s signs – it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit.
While we at beyondbrics are laughing at the hilarity of it all, Apple and Steve Jobs are probably not amused. News of the “clone” Apple store comes just a day after the company highlighted the role China has played in its blockbuster results.
Tim Cook, chief operating officer, said China was key to the company’s results, with sales up more than sixfold year-on-year in China and Taiwan, reaching $3.8bn. And as breakingview noted, China is where Apple has the biggest opportunity given the low penetration rate of smart phones among the country’s 910m mobile phone users. Last thing it wants is China’s monied class buying fakes thinking they are real.
The revelation of the clone Apple store is also a serious embarassment to the Chinese government, which has been trying to crackdown on counterfeits and IP infringments in an attempt to address an issue that has become a big liability in Beijing’s economic relations with the west.
And before readers rush to point out that this is just one isolated incident, here’s the kicker. The blogger found not one but two more counterfeit stores within a ten minute walk of the first.
China is a big, big country so one can only speculate how many more Apple store clones are out there. Readers can check out photos of the fake Apple stores here – we especially like the Apple Stoer.