Now you can get an Apple  of the Steve Jobs variety at your neighbourhood hypermarket. Apple’s line-up of products are now available at select Lulu hypermarkets  as the tech giant makes a determined move to widen its retail base in the UAE where earlier it had preferred a highly selective channel approach.
“Lulu has been signed as an authorised retailer for Apple since February and thus creates a platform where the Mac  range can be accessed by the widest possible shopper base in the country,” said V. Nandakumar, spokesperson for the Emke Group, which owns the Lulu chain.
This is not an isolated move from Apple. “We became an Apple Authorised Reseller’ in December and as such have made a commitment to Apple that we won’t source products from the grey market,” said Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky’s Group . “In cases like the iPad Mini, we waited until December before selling anything rather than importing from the grey market when it was actually launched a month-and-a-half earlier.”
Industry insiders say Apple’s revised strategy is in keeping with the times. For instance, the brand is also being sold at Eros Group’s stores even though it is the exclusive local distributor for Samsung. Niranjan Gidwani, deputy CEO at Eros Group, does not see any irony in that.
“At the retail level, it is now a confirmed and researched fact that, for a consumer to make an educated choice, he or she needs to look at several brand options,” said Gidwani. “Hence, at the retail level, if consumers  are given that option in a store, it is easier to convert them to one or the other brand.
“If there is a limited choice of brands in-store, then the consumer would walk in and buy only when they have already decided about their brand choice.”
And as any retailer — or distributor for that matter — would tell you more time on a purchase decision invariably has its impact on their inventory cycles. And in the tech industry where fads can come and go overnight, it is the optimum measure to have the shopper come in and make instant decisions.
It is not just happening in the UAE. “Emax  is an authorised retailer across the GCC for Apple; we have allocated premium spaces within most of our stores for branded Apple displays,” said Neelesh Bhatnagar, CEO. “We are working closely with the Apple MENA management team to enhance the relationship to take it to the next level.”
Apple’s âgo wide’ gameplan is the vogue in the tech trade now. While there will always be shoppers preferring exclusive boutique-style stores for tech brands, companies want to connect with as wide an audience as is possible.
“Most major brands are now putting more focus on growing markets, especially given the state of the Europe at the moment,” said Panjabi. “When you also consider that in many multinationals the Middle East falls under their “EMEA” region and if the E in EMEA doesn’t perform, they have to put focus on the MEA regions if they want to reach their overall numbers.
“Overall, for consumers, retailers and any one involved in the trade, this is a positive step. More focus means we see all the other elements of the eco-system emerge and this only enhances the consumer experience.
“Take for example the fact that Apple launched their iTunes music and movie offerings in the UAE in December. This has been an integral part of their success in the US and Europe but was never present here. But now you can start to take advantage of what the iTunes store can offer.”