Apple’s retail stores have driven to be a boon for the company and their shopping centre landlords. Walk past any store and you’ll find them a busy hive of activity that brings foot traffic to all around rhem. And while many of the potential customers in the stores are just “tyre kickers”, looking what Apple has to offer or filching the free wifi, they have also proven to be the death of the local Apple reseller. And another is now facing down Apple as the Cupertino behemoth sets up shop in Melbourne.
Apple’s new retail store, set to be built in Melbourne’s Federation Square in 2019, promises to respect “the original vision for the plaza, with a bespoke design concept and extensive landscaping bringing increased opportunities for the community to enjoy this renowned cultural hub,” according to a statement by Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president, Retail.
But just across Flinders Street, about 100 metres from where Apple will open what they are calling their “most significant store in the Southern Hemisphere” (sorry Sydney!) sits one of the last independent retailers, MyMac Australia.
Back when I bought my first Mac, there were three or four Apple resellers in the city. Those were the days before JB HiFi and other big retailers sold Apple’s computers and other gadgets. And while almost all of them faded away, My Mac managed to stay in business.
In other locations where Apple set up a retail store, independent retailers disappeared. Notably, when Apple opened their first Melbourne store, in Chadstone Shopping Centre, it took just a few weeks from Next Byte, who had been there for many years, to disappear.
I called MyMac to ask them what they think the impact of the new store will be on them, following Apple’s announcements. But neither of the two people I spoke to, after making it clear I’m a journalist, knew about the announcement with one person noting they had heard about this two years ago but were unaware of today’s official announcement.
Beyond that, all they had to say was “No comment”.
If I was the owner of MyMac, I’d be pretty worried. While the new store won’t be open for till 2020 according to the Victorian state government, once it opens there will be little need for anyone to cross the street to see a reduced range of gear. There’s some construction going on in Federation Square at the moment but it’s not related to the new store according to an Apple spokesperson.
At least MyMac can fall back to the St Kilda Road and Hobart stores.
Apple’s retail stores, combined with the expansion of their footprint into “High Street” retailers has resulted in the death of many smaller operators. A few persist but they have become smaller and either built their businesses by targeting specific niches such as education or by reducing their store size and moving to a mainly online model.
So, while I’m sure the Apple fanboys in Melbourne will be all excited by the prospect of a local flagship store, it’s likely to result in the closure, or serious contraction, of Apple’s last Melbourne CBD reseller. And, it will have a flow-on effect to the smaller suburban stores as city workers buy their Apple gear on their lunch breaks and after work rather than after they get home.