Commentary
4/16/2015
02:02 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary

Apple Watch Won't Be Sold In Stores Anytime Soon

Angela Ahrendts, Apple's retail chief, said the company will sell its high-end Apple Watch online exclusively until June as preorders continue unabated. The latest estimates have preorder sales topping 2 million.



10 Apple Watch Apps: Which Ones Will You Use?
10 Apple Watch Apps: Which Ones Will You Use?
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The Apple Watch goes "on sale" April 24, but Apple has its own definition for what "on sale" really means. Apple's retail boss said consumers won't be able to buy the watch in stores for weeks to come thanks to high demand.

Even with that latest caveat, the smartwatch continues to generate interest. The latest estimates for Apple Watch preorders have topped 2.3 million.

In a memo to staffers, which was obtained by The Telegraph, retail chief Angela Ahrendts said the soft launch has gone according to plan. "The Previews going on in our stores and support from our Contact Centers are unlike anything we have done before. The feedback from customers is overwhelmingly positive," she wrote.

Apple began accepting pre-orders for the watch on April 10. The initial ship date was set on April 24, but those placing orders online found shipping times moving further and further out. Some models won't ship until July. If you were hoping to run to an Apple Store on April 24 to grab a watch, there's some bad news: It's not going to happen.

Not coming to a store near you.

Not coming to a store near you.

"As we announced last week, due to high global interest combined with our initial supply, we are only taking orders online right now," said Ahrendts. "I'll have more updates as we get closer to in-store availability, but we expect this to continue through the month of May. We will be able to get customers the model they want earlier and faster by taking orders online."

Apple is easing itself into the process of selling the wearable because the watch is an entirely new product category for the company, according to Ahrendts. The watch is more personal than its other products thanks to the wide variety of cases and bands. Apple believes the watch is as much about self-expression as it is about providing a convenient connection to iPhones. She directed in-store staffers to point customers toward the Apple Web Store to place Apple Watch orders.

If you're worried Apple may start selling iPhones this way, don't. "Are we going to launch every product this way from now on? No. We all love those blockbuster Apple product launch days -- and there will be many more to come," said Ahrendts.

Just how well is the Apple Watch selling ahead of its official debut? Estimates vary. Earlier this week, Slice Intelligence suggested about 957,000 people pre-ordered the wearable in the US. The Watch was also available to consumers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, and the UK.

[Read about Apple's WWDC 2015 agenda.]

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pegs worldwide orders at more than double Slice's number. "We estimate production of Apple Watch around 2.3 million units in March to May. Mass production of Apple Watch began in March and will likely reach 2.3 million by end of May. Considering that most consumers who preordered will not get the device until June, we estimate global preorders of over 2.3 million units, with Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition representing a respective order allocation of 85%, 15%, and less than 1%."

Apple has not said how many preorders it received for the Apple Watch, but clearly demand has outstripped the initial supply -- whatever supply there happens to be.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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