The Real Lesson of China’s Fake Apple Stores


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.[more]

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?