Apple: a retail tale

I like shopping for trainers. There is nothing quite like a set of kicks in a nice colour-way (preferably that no one else has). You go and grab a sales assistant, they go and check in the back or radio a colleague to do it. Then they inform you if they have the appropriate size and colour-way or what the available options are.

Apple Store Regent Street

Unfortunately a trip the Apple store in Regent Street often isn’t nearly as easy as a trip to Size? or Sole Trader. I went shopping for an iPad with a friend of mine over from Hong Kong, since Apple’s version of the Etch-a-Sketch isn’t officially available there yet.

We went into the store and found a blue-shirted assistant who told me that the iPad versions in stock were the 32GB wi-fi  and 64GB wi-fi and 3G versions. We were sent to the cash desk to ask for the iPad, being told that they will probably run out in the next half hour or so.

We immediately went to the MacBook Pro equipped cash desk where we were told by our cashier Andy that there was no iPads in stock, we could put our names down and order one. Andy wasn’t sure when the order would be fulfilled, but we were talking weeks rather than months.

At this point I was ready to come back another day, but Yumei was determined to bring the iPad back to Hong Kong. She hassled a third blue t-shirted shop assistant whilst I picked up a LaCie back-up drive for my Mac. Eventually her efforts paid off and she walked out of the store with a new iPad.

Unlike Size? or Sole Trader and despite all the apparent technology on the shop floor from Fujitsu Windows Mobile credit card terminals to the MacBook Pro-powered cashier desks; Apple’s staff didn’t seem have any kind of grasp on their stock levels.

Which made me think all the theories on Apple’s artificial shortages, maybe conspiracy theories are far-fetched or are a cover-up for a more prosaic reason, maybe their retail systems are overstretched?