Steve Jobs might want to look at the Chinese market a bit more carefully . . . something’s happening that he may need to pay closer attention to:
The Western news media is replete with pithy descriptions of the rapid changes taking place in China: China has the world’s fastest growing economy. China is undergoing remarkable and rapid change. This represents a unique moment for a society changing as quickly as China.
You probably read such things in the paper every day — but if you have never been to China, I’m not sure you know quite what this means on a mundane level. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, in the 2+ years that RP and I have been in our apartment, much of the area around us has been torn down, rebuilt, or gutted and renovated – in some cases, several times over. I had the thought, only half-jokingly, that when we returned from a couple months abroad, we might not be able to recognize our apartment building. Or that it might not be there at all.
As it turns out, my fears were baseless — our scrappy little home remains. The neighborhood, however, has definitely kicked it up a notch or seven. Starbucks has opened not one, but THREE branches (that I encountered) within a 10 minute walk of one another. An H&M has opened across from our apartment building. These are the kinds of major Western brands that were previously only represented in Kunming by fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC. Our neighborhood has quickly become the swanky shopping center of the city.
Update, 21 July: Andrew Orlowski thinks I’ve been taken in by a non-story:
Some stories are so unusual, you immediately wonder if they’re too good to be true. On Tuesday, a Western NGO in China posted a remarkable tale, reporting that ingenious Chinese retailers in a medium-sized provincial city called Kunming had cloned an Apple Retail Store, faithfully reproducing the staff T-shirts, furniture, display material, and name tags.
[. . .]
But another 10 seconds with Google would reveal that in China, as in the UK and many other countries, Apple has a network of authorised resellers. Apple lays down very strict guidelines on how the resellers must present the gear. The sales material is Apple’s, and the specifications are extremely precise. And to be an Apple “Premium Reseller”, you have to look a lot like an Apple Apple Store, but naturally, you can’t call yourself one. There are hundreds of these, with Apple manufacturer Foxconn’s brother Gou Tai-chang planning 100.
[. . .]
Think of it like this: if you had a Jaguar showroom, anywhere in the world, would you operate from a dodgy lock-up and advertise it with a hand-painted sign? I thought not. You’d want it to look as slick and expensive as the real thing. I’m not sure why we expect Chinese Apple resellers not to do so, too.