Hong Kong gets its first Apple Store

Located at the eastern end of the IFC shopping mall, the two-story Apple store manages to remain somewhat understated at first glance. Its indoor location doesn’t afford it the space for any architectural statement-making, unlike the one in Shanghai.

Walk a few steps inside the front door, however, and you’re greeted by the Apple Store’s signature glass staircase with an oversized Apple logo and the view of Hong Kong’s cityscape in the background.

Transparency is one of the key elements of the store’s design. During the day, the amount of natural light that pours into the space is striking.Applestory-Hong-Kong-3

The blue-shirted Apple service army, drawn from a total roster of 300 employees at this store location alone, buzzes around the store smiling and preening.

Some of them were flown to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California for training. They’ve come back dapper and eager, looking like a cross between an Abercrombie & Fitch photo spread and the backup dancers at a Joey Yung concert.

The first floor is entirely dedicated to Apple products which are prominently displayed. The vibe here is an expensive toy store for grown-ups, as the displays are all experiential.

The second floor is dotted with low tables. This is the children’s area. It’s reminiscent of the men’s waiting areas in women’s clothing stores, but here the children’s area is more than a mere distraction. Apple employees stand at the ready to assist pint-sized customers.

Most of the rest of the floor is given over to a personal setup area, where customers can personalize their purchases. The store’s “genius bar” provides tech support.

Eastern expansion

The opening of Hong Kong’s first Apple store is joined this week by the opening of Shanghai’s second (and China’s fifth) Apple store.

Applestory-Hong-Kong-2Opening additional stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan is especially enticing to Apple since sales in the region increased 600 percent last quarter.

It was revealed last year that Apple plans to open 25 retail stores by 2012 in China, a market that newly installed CEO Tim Cook has called “a priority.”

Bob Bridger, Apple’s vice president of real estate and development who is in Hong Kong to oversee the IFC store opening, also states that the existing four stores in China are the most heavily trafficked of the more than 325 Apple stores around the world. These four Chinese stores generate on average Apple’s highest revenue.

To date, the Hong Kong market has been able to absorb the intense demand for Apple products through a network of authorized resellers.

One of the exclusive Apple resellers, DG Lifestyle Store, is a chain that had a location at the IFC Mall until, in a sign of things to come, it relocated last year.

DG, along with other exclusive Apple resellers such asSunion and Ultimate MAC Gallery, have thrived as HongKong’s default Apple stores. They even take their design cues from Apple, offering spare interiors and white and silver furnishing.

When asked what impact the opening of Apple’s first retail location in Hong Kong will have for these resellers, Bridger says, “When we open stores worldwide, it creates a greater awareness of Apple products and all resellers can expect a lift.”

None of the premium resellers in Hong Kong who we contacted, however, wished to comment on the arrival of the Apple store.

Not all resellers are wary though. At the Wan Chai Computer Centre, Harry Lai, the operations supervisor at 2C Company Limited, a diversified computer shop that is a non-exclusive Apple reseller, says, “We support Apple, and we’re very confident in our own business because we’re flexible and are able to support a wide range of products.”

A scan of the shelves at 2C makes clear the reasons behind Lai’s confidence. In addition to offering Apple products, 2C is also an authorized Microsoft retailer.

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