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Apple Watch Makes Debut in Luxury Boutiques

Apple's entry into a new product category is marked by a different retail strategy.

Fashion boutique Maxfield, which is known for offering unique apparel for LA’s trendsetting elite, has devoted its website to the latest hard-to-find accessory: The Apple Watch.

The West Hollywood store is among a handful of luxury retailers around the world to have Apple Watches for sale Friday. They won’t be available yet at Apple’s 265 stores in the United States.

This limited availability represents a shift in retail strategy for Apple, as it enters a new category of devices. It reflects Apple’s positioning of the Apple Watch as a fashion accessory, not some nerdy smartwatch whose appeal might otherwise be limited to early-adopting technology enthusiasts.

“We love our iconic blockbuster launches that we do in stores,” Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, said in a video to employees that was obtained by the French website Mac4Ever. “And have absolutely no fear, you will see those. This is just a very unique situation.”

Apple declined to make Ahrendts available for an interview. However, in the video, she says the decision not to offer the product in the stores was difficult, but one that made sense given the high global demand and limited initial availability of the Apple Watch. Since the device is so personal, Apple took the unusual step of offering a preview in stores two weeks ahead of its retail availability — which allowed customers to consider their options, then place their orders.

Exclusif : Angela Ahrendts évoque la sortie de… by mac4ever

At least one marketing expert was perplexed by Apple’s retail strategy.

“Do they think the Apple Store is not chichi enough?” asked Peter Sealey, a consultant who once ran global marketing for Coca-Cola. “I just don’t understand the strategy. The watches add luster to the Apple Store. You go to the Chevrolet dealership, you look at the Corvette and you end up buying the Malibu.”

Opportunists are already taking advantage of the scarce supply, offering Apple Watches on eBay. One Apple Sport Watch with a 42mm aluminum case and black sport band, available in Apple’s online store for $399, is being offered on eBay for $639. Another Apple Watch with a 42mm black case and black stainless steel link bracelet is being offered for $2,000 — an 80 percent premium on the original $1,099 selling price.

Such scalping behavior isn’t unusual for any hot commodity.

Profiteers similarly capitalized on the initial shortage of Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus phones, selling the big-screen device for as much as $6,000 on eBay. One 20th anniversary PlayStation 4 game console fetched $20,100 on eBay. And back in the summer of 2013, when Google introduced its Chromecast streaming device, the $35 dongle commanded as much as $300.

Even in a time of scarcity, certain influential celebrities have managed to lay their hands — or, rather, wrists — on the new Apple Watch. Pharrell Williams showed off his Apple Watch on Instagram two weeks ago, and Beyonce posted a GIF of her new gold Apple Watch, which she displayed next to a wrist band for the Coachella music festival.

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