Apple raises mass merchant white flag

Apple raises mass merchant white flag

Apple Computer is scaling back its sales through mass merchants, and pulling its hardware out of Harvey Norman, David Jones and Brashs.

Three Myer stores will continue to stock product, in Perth, Sydney (Grace Brothers) and the new Myer Electric concept store in Melbourne, as will Business 2000 in Adelaide.

According to Apple general manager Steve Rust, the volume of sales through retail was so small it is better to divert energy into standard resellers. "And the experience that customers were having was pretty varied from store to store," said Rust.

"We've been talking to the mass merchants for some time now, and it wasn't a decision we took lightly," he said.

"Most of them agreed with us 100 per cent - they recognised that their store reps weren't able to maintain sufficient knowledge of the Macintosh platform, just simply because of the brand range that they carry.

"Where we are doing well in retail is where there's a focus on Apple product," said Rust. "And in many of the mass merchant stores it just hasn't been possible - because they've got so many brands to get across - to keep their staff trained on the benefits of the Macintosh platform. And that does need to be explained to customers."

Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey agreed the decision is not unwelcome, as only half his stores stock Apple, with mixed results. "And the half that do, they only do it under sufferance. But then we've got half a dozen stores that actually sell quite a bit of it. But the market for Apple has been diminishing fairly rapidly over the last couple of years." Harvey said his stores are also unlikely to continue stocking Apple-based software.

Looking to the channel

However, national buyer for Myer computers Frank Kavanagh said he is happy to be stocking Apple at the new Myer Electric concept store.

Apple will focus its resources on the reseller channel, which Rust believes knows how to articulate the benefits of Macintosh to customers. This renewed effort will see Apple meeting with resellers to discuss how it can improve their sales through such activities as joint marketing campaigns.

Apple has already launched a campaign to inform potential purchasers of where they can now buy Apple product.

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