Finally, Apple opened an official store in Singapore last week. Predictably along Orchard Road. Thousands arrived on opening day to pay homage to the brand, had multiple more Instagram and Snapchat shots taken, probably not buy anything, and left.
Is the store going to bring an injection of buzz to unabashedly boring shopping street? Maybe, likely not. Why? Apple used to be APPLE and now it's just apple. Half the country has iPhones and the other half are watching movies on their iPads. I've got a MacBook. The problem with ubiquity is that it kills novelty. Hermes Birkin bags go for a truckload of cash because there are so few of them. It's probably not Apple's dream to not be mass market but clearly they've got to keep their innovation pipeline bursting at the rivets to keep our short attention spans clued into their latest gizmos. And that's hard to do. $100 Japanese fruit of the same moniker would get more buzz.
So who's at the store buying up stuff? Tourists. Likely Indonesian and Chinese. Our affluent neighbours to the south have about 50 flights a day between Jakarta and this little red dot to choose from, and shopping, concerts and quick getaways have become mere day trips. There are too many Chinese mainlanders who want to get their hands on the latest gizmos to resell back home. It's just a weird consequence of too much demand for the coolest toys among a population of 1+ billion, all trying to be cool. Even those barely getting by seem to want to show off - a new phone, a real Apple, not a China made rip-off - regardless how broke they become. What's even more awesome for our tourists is the GST rebate they get back at the airport. No lucky 7% for the locals.
My gripe is the missed opportunity for Apple and our gahmen to do something great together, for the big Singapore picture. Imagine if the gahmen gave Apple a nice plot of land to build a magnificent glass house that would glitter and be resplendent enough to mesmerise those drawn to things bright and shiny. To build a standout. With a clever twist - place where no one would expect it to be. Not antiquated Orchard Road but somewhere where more attention is due, somewhere the gahmen wants people to look at and also be drawn to. Say Jurong East, the second CBD. Shocking at first thought I believe. Incredulous even. Not in Apple's image you might think. My take is Apple hasn't done much lately to stun anyone. Apple used to be APPLE because not many people had the shiny fruit. Definitely the folks strutting up and down Orchard Road would be too familiar with and blasé about the brand. But perhaps the folks in the boondocks or more politely, the heartlands, would appreciate a slice of the Apple pie in their neck of the woods. An Apple cube in Jurong or Woodlands or Tampines would attract the attention. MNCs and even luxury brands which may want to follow suit and stake some ground to roll in the average Joe's dough. A wasted opportunity to stir up much needed noise. A store up north would have attracted rich Johoreans to come spend their ringgit here too and scuttle back across all before lunchtime.
Unless rents come down, I don't think the Apple Store at Knightsbridge is going to last 5 years I fear. Singaporeans are going to get their devices online or from their package deal peddling telcos. And tourists won't be enough to keep the coffers plump. Let's see.