In this interesting article, European independent Apple resellers on verge of Bankruptcy, Thom Holwerda writes:
Way back in 2005, only a few months after I joined the OSNews team, I interviewed Wim Schermer, founder and then-owner of the largest chain of Apple “Premium Reseller” stores in The Netherlands, MacSupport (now iCentre). In fact, Wim Schermer was the first Dutchman to buy a Macintosh — the original Macintosh, that is — in The Netherlands, and went on to start his Apple reseller business in 1988. While the interview covered many aspects, one thing always stuck with me: Schermer was concerned about what would happen to his business if Apple were to open an official Apple Store in The Netherlands. Seven years later, his concerns are becoming reality.
The one thing that always stuck with me was Schermer’s answer to my question about what it would mean for competition if Apple were to open an official Apple Store in The Netherlands. There have been mumblings about this topic for years now, with the first Apple Store supposedly opening up shop later this year. Here’s the question and answer in full.
You guys have been an Apple reseller for 17 years. How do you feel about Apple taking retail upon themselves with the Apple Stores? Do you expect any (un)fair competition when they open up stores in The Netherlands?
Wim: That’s of course a sensitive subject. [chuckles] Let me put it this way: if Apple plays fair with its dealers, then we barely have to compete with each other. But, it all depends on that fair play. There were occasions in America where Apple opened a retail store in a place where there also were successful dealers. And then Apple got critique on how they supplied their own stores in comparison to the independent dealers. And I think that that critique is founded.
Apple must play that game fair. If the game is played fair, and Apple supplies all stores equally, especially with new machines, then independent dealers can easily exist. The market is big enough. Look at Amsterdam. First there was only one small shop, now there are three bigger ones, and they all put food on the table.
It turns out that Schermer’s fears have materialised. Not in The Netherlands (yet), but in France. Les Echos has an article up [French] about how the first and largest authorised Apple reseller in France, eBizcuss, has filed an injunction against Apple, and is threatening to file a complaint at the competition authority in France. The reason? Apple is supplying its own stores better than its resellers. eBizcuss claims to be on the verge of bankruptcy because of it.
As always, I don’t want to generalise or make assumptions, but I had the opportunity to witness a similar situation here in Valencia. When I came here in 2005 there was only one Apple Premium Reseller, K-Tuin, but I went there only occasionally due to the fact that the shop isn’t in a central location. Then, around 2008, another Apple Premium Reseller called Illa Digital opened shop, this time right in the city centre, in a prominent position.
When rumours that Apple was planning to open its first official Apple Store in the centre of Valencia, just a few block from Illa Digital, I wondered if the little shop could resist having such powerful official presence nearby. I wasn’t optimistic, but then I thought that maybe it could still offer its customers the ‘curated’ experience of a small shop, both regarding customer care and technical assistance.
Sadly, that didn’t happen. The official Apple Store opened on December 3, 2011 and started attracting a multitude of customers. I had to wait more than two weeks before being able to enter the Store with enough personal space around me to make it a pleasant experience. And when I happened to walk by the near Illa Digital, I couldn’t help but notice that the place was getting less and less visited by customers. Little more than one month later, roughly around mid-January, Illa Digital closed shop. From an article published by ifoAppleStore.com on January 13:
Illa Digital is just four blocks from the Calle Colón Apple store, and opened four years ago as the city’s first Apple Premium Reseller, the highest level of certification for a reseller. Illa Digital was the only reseller serving the city center when the Apple store opened last December 3rd. According to ValenciaPlaza.com, the store’s owner noticed revenue began to decline after the Apple store opened. Finally this week, the store’s owners laid off all four of the store’s employees and the store went dark.
At ifoAppleStore.com there’s also a map of Valencia’s centre, with the location of both Illa Digital and the Apple Store — very close to one another as you can see.
(Thanks to @zbrando for pointing me to the original article)