Perennial purveyor of the hip PC, Apple, is quietly telling retail staffers they have "the authority to match the prices of other authorized retailers," upping the competitive ante on big-box retail outlets such as Best Buy and online retailers such as Amazon.com-not to mention midmarket resellers.
As the weakened U.S. economy stumbles toward the all-important holiday season and consumer confidence nears an all-time low, Apple is trying to ensure anyone shopping for Apple products buys their iPod from one of their stores or through their online store.
Apple traditionally does not offer major discounts on its products. Stores such as Best Buy, on the other hand, have recently begun offering large discounts on MacBook notebooks. Apple is also holding a one-day shopping event on Black Friday, the traditional kick-off day for the holiday shopping season. While the news has spurred some angry reactions from resellers, Michael Oh, president of Boston-based TechSuperpowers, an Apple reseller, said this is simply the reality of the difficult economic climate SMBs and enterprises alike find themselves in.
"They're saying -As retailers, we need to be competitive in an extremely difficult environment,'" Oh said. "From that standpoint, they have to tell their staff, do whatever you can to get the deal." Oh said Apple's decision is just one part of the larger ecosystem Apple has created in the channel. "We've got our supplier directly competing with us in a retail fashion," he said. "Yes, it sends mixed signals, but they feel they're doing what makes sense."
This at-times uneasy alliance between Apple and its resellers was apparent when Apple began building its own retail stores, Oh remembers. "When the Apple stores popped up, the resellers were up in arms, but Apple said, listen, you're not doing a good enough job," he said. This leads to infighting, he said, when Apple and resellers should be working together.
"There's really no clean and easy solution to it," he said. "It's the reality of the market."