With Apple Australia ordering a loyal army of local partners to rebrand within six months, some resellers have suggested it is paving the way for a direct retail presence in Australia.
Apple has given 60 AppleCentres until 31 January 2007 to forge new identities without using Apple, Mac or iPod in their new company names. Similar rebranding is underway in other regions, notably Europe.
Managing director of NSW-based Academy Store Bondi Junction, Ben Morgan, recently changed the name of his business when relocating from Darlinghurst. It had previously traded as AppleCentre Taylor Square.
Morgan said removing the AppleCentre name from resellers would ensure a clear delineation if Apple was to open its own stores and said it was partly why his new location dropped the AppleCentre name.
"If you read between the lines, there are two plausible reasons [for the rebranding order]," he said. "Firstly, there are a lot of Apple resellers doing a great job but there are some who aren't.
"But it could also be preparation for Apple to open its own retail stores. It's not a case of if, but when."
AppleCentre Central Coast managing director, Jean-Pierre Roux, will have to change the name of his two retail locations. He is under no doubt the rebranding heralds the arrival of Apple's own retail stores.
"We are not really worried about the rebranding or the possibility of Apple Stores because we're quite isolated on the Central Coast," he said. "If I was in Sydney, however, I'd be concerned."
Apple has about 140 Apple Stores worldwide, mostly in North America. Stores have also opened in Europe and Japan.
"Our stores are incredibly successful. They make more retail revenue per square foot of space than anywhere else in the world," Apple marketing manager, Rob Small, said.
But he would not be drawn on whether the rebranding of its resellers was part of the groundwork to open Apple Stores in Australia. "That would be speculation and, as you know, we don't speculate," he said.
AppleCentre owners have also been asked to apply for the newly created title of premium reseller, which will mean meeting a number of pre-determined requirements.
"It will involve things like having a high traffic area, a ground floor location, good street frontage and a great staff attitude to create that brand experience," Small said. "A number of them are already there today but some, to be honest, won't qualify."
Resellers that fail to hit the mark will receive authorised accreditation.
Small said there would be no difference in pricing offered to the two reseller tiers. However, premium resellers would receive a marketing investment.