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The Real Lesson of China's Fake Apple Stores

Posted by Abe Sauer on July 21, 2011 03:00 PM

In what will come as a shock to nobody who has ever visited China, reports of fake Apple stores are flooding the web, sparked by a lone American blogger. The Associated Press, under the headline "Entire Apple stores being faked in China," reports that China had "reached a new piracy milestone — fake Apple stores."

Really? A milestone? This is the same country in which an entire mall dedicated to fake brand name stores opened in 2009. Knock-off Apple stores in China, meanwhile, have been reported as far back as 2007. More important than the fakeness of the Apple stores? Nobody there cares.

The New York Times carries a report on the rise of fake Apple stores worldwide, noting similar shops in places as far flung as Quito, Ecuador.

The news bump originates with a blog post this week by "BirdAbroad," the nom de plume of a newlywed American expat living in China with her husband.

Since the explosion of the story, the blogger (who says she received some "half million" hits in 48 hours on her first post) has begun asking readers to send in their own pictures of fake Apple stores. She kicks off the exercise with a photo of a fake Apple store in Hanoi, Vietnam, taken by "RP" (who appears to be her husband).

Apple currently operates four stores in China, two each in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as an online store launched for the China market in 2010.

As noted, China is a place where malls full of knock-off retail brands have set up shop, so it's not a surprise that as far back as 2007, Wired had dropped mention of the "coming soon" banner of a fake Apple store in China (that may have been the real store?) But oe that was certainly not real was the Apple Mac Store spotted in Tokyo in 2005.

One striking part of the story, as many have noted, is that the employees there seem to genuinely believe they are working for Apple, and not an impostor. But maybe the most telling part of this story for American and foreign brands is one small detail.

When confronted with the reality that he worked for a fake brand and not the real Apple, the fake store's employee didn't even care, telling the Wall Street Journal, "It doesn't make much of a difference to us whether we're authorized or not. I just care that what I sell every day are authentic Apple products, and that our customers don't come back to me to complain about the quality of the products." (And, presumably, as long as he gets paid.)

Chinese consumers may not care if the store is real, but they genuinely care that the branded products are genuine. Witness the current uproar over the DaVinci furniture brand in China, which is learning about the perils of faking it as "Made in Italy" when its faux luxury label goods are really "Made in China." 

One other noteworthy item: Following this story, a Chinese resident of Kunming posted a video of his visit to one of Kunming's three fake Apple stores. From the visit one can see the store sits adjacent to a Sony store. Has anyone checked to see if that's real?


Sir says:

aahhahaha...China is crushing the world, no doubt about that!

July 22, 2011 03:58 AM #

geo United Kingdom says:

If Apple have any sense they will already have started the process of having these stores raided by the authorities and shut down

July 22, 2011 11:21 AM #

Sir says:

Raided? Why would the Chinese gov care about an american brand. They want to dominate the world, not "help" keep Apple and other American brands on top. The truth is there will be a lot more of this..can't say I feel that sorry for Mr.Jobs, happy to see Chinese domination though Smile

July 22, 2011 11:24 AM #

geo United Kingdom says:

Well, the Chinese authorities do care to a degree about how China is perceived overseas from a business point of view. If China is not seen to take the enforcement of Intellectual Property rights seriously this can and does have a negative impact  overseas investment in their country and in turn their economic development.

I work for a company that actively pursues counterfeit goods coming out of China.  Do we stop everything? No,  but the action taken does make a difference  and it is important to be seen to be doing something against counterfeit goods as they can damage a brand.  We have liaised with Chinese authorities to raid and shut down factories and take court action.

You're right there will be more of this illegal activity but that doesn't mean you just give up and accept it.
It appears  APPLE have done just that as I understand these stores have now been shut down.


July 25, 2011 06:02 AM #

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