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Mac Planet: Black Friday but no NZ Apple Store

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Black Friday is supposed to be when a Friday falls on a 13th, and is often considered bad luck. It's one of those strange holdovers from another time, and if you think an Apple sale appears once in a blue moon (technically, when two full moons appear in the same calendar month, by the way) you are wrong.

It's an annual shopping extravaganza in America, and for some reason it's called Black Friday. And it's this week.

I have seen a few good-ish deals in there over the past few years, better at least than the roughly 4 per cent discount that teachers and students get. (Note I said 'roughly', not 'paltry'.) The sale is definitely worth looking at, with your credit card ready, if you have been putting off an Apple purchase, and you don't mind ordering Apple products online. I have done before, including having an iMac and two MacBook Pros delivered over the last five years. I figure, if you can't trust Apple to deliver you a product properly, who can you trust?

Sometimes the New Zealand Apple Resellers get in on the act - after all, Apple is effectively driving people to shop direct with Apple, bypassing our NZ resellers, at least on that day. While it's hard if not impossible for the resellers to discount Apple products, they can on other products for which their margins are higher, so keep your ears open for local discounts.

But it all does beg the question 'why don't we have real Apple Stores here?' There are two sides of the argument. The compelling one might be 'Auckland or Rio de Janeiro? Which would you choose for a new Apple Store?' Auckland is, indeed, very small potatoes by comparison, and there would be plenty of other, bigger cities Apple would probably look hard before something in New Zealand.

Amsterdam, for example, only got its first Apple Store ever just last year. Amsterdam only has a population of about 750,000 compared to Auckland's well over a million, but Holland is a country with more like a total population of 18 million people. That means even those in the further reaches of Holland can go to Amsterdam just to shop.

Apple Stores are very successful. According to RetailSails, a firm that tracks US consumer and retail industries, Apple's retail stores are the most profitable stores per square foot of any US retailer. And by a long chalk - Apple stores have over twice the sales per square foot of the next closest on the list, Tiffany & Co.

Apple stores came out on top with US$6050 of sales for every square foot of retail space; second-placed Tiffany & Co achieved half that, at US$3017/sales per square foot. Last year RetailSails reckons Apple earned a little over US$5600 per square foot. Apple's retail sales have risen as it continues to put new Stores in around the world.

However, it's not just about sales. Apple Stores are also about Apple presence and branding. Australia's Apple sales went up once the Sydney store went in, and tellingly several more Apple Stores appeared around Australia within the year. Apple has announced many new stores are coming, with a high percentage outside the States. On its last financial call Apple said it is planning to open 30-35 new retail stores in the next 12 months, and three quarters of those will be located outside the United States.

And on that Rio thing, recent job listings show that at least one of the new stores will be located in Brazil, which doesn't yet have an official Apple Store.

The job listings were first noted by Brazilian website MacMagazine and later confirmed by The Next Web. Among the job listings are positions for Business Managers, Geniuses, Inventory Specialists and Store Leaders. The Next Web then confirmed that at least one of the stores will be opening in Rio de Janeiro. The Next Web also points out that a position for a Market Leader suggests more stores could follow.

Brazil is seen as an important emerging market and one Apple needs to go after to continue to increase its global share. Other important emerging markets are Russian, India and China.

New Zealand, by comparison, is not 'emerging'. New Zealand has always had a relatively strong Apple base, at least percentage-wise (our little population precludes staggering overall figures). We're basically just an adjunct of Australia, as far as Apple is concerned, and indeed we are administered from there.

But we do actually have Apple staff on the ground here, and the numbers have been growing, from one a couple of years ago to three or four now. Meanwhile the resellers - those agencies officially allowed by Apple, having passed specific and strict criteria, to sell Apple products here - are getting by on very slim margins on Apple products while looking a bit like Apple Stores (but not too much!) and trying to foster and maintain client bases on services and third party extras. Many do an excellent job.

Will Apple set up a store here? Can't say, but I don't believe it's as unlikely as some people do.

With a low wage economy policy here increasingly imminent, if not already extant, maybe Foxconn will even set up a factory in GodZone. OK, just kidding - but there was talk of a Foxconn factory for Brazil, and even rumours of plants in ... the States! Apparently Foxconn Electronics is discussing possible plants in Detroit and Los Angeles, but Foxconn may be conducting evaluations in other cities as well. But these would probably be television assemblers.

Once upon a time, Apple computers were built in the US, and for a while Ireland had a factory, and one of my Macs long ago was built in Malaysia before assembly mostly ended up China. On the other hand, the Apple (among others) assembler Foxconn is betting on robots to solve labour problems, which might be easier to control than increasingly fractious Chinese ground staff.

One report says Foxconn, which is China's largest private-sector employer with more than 1.2 million workers, announced plans to replace one million of those humans with robots within the next three years. It has now begun that process with an initial batch of 10,000 machines named 'Foxbots' ...

I don't know if this is such a good idea. You would need much stronger suicide nets, for robots.

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