An unusually empty Apple store. Credit: Apple
Apple's head of retail is apparently serious about pushing customers to order online: There are no new MacBooks available for pickup at the company's brick-and-mortar stores.
Spot checks of the 12-in. Retina MacBook in the Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Portland metro areas failed to find any stores that had the new notebook in stock and available for pickup today after placing an online order.
Other laptops, including the popular 13-in. MacBook Air and 15-in. Retina MacBook Pro, were available, Apple's website confirmed.
Customers took to Twitter to grouse.
"The gold MacBook was not in stock in KC. Allegedly no stores received stock and only online orders were available," tweeted Brody White today.
"Hey $aapl, if you set a launch date for a product actually have it in stock. Thanks. #MacBook blues," echoed Jamie Finch, also on Twitter.
But the best summary was from Alex Kain. "The new MacBook is so minimalist Apple doesn't even stock them in their own stores," he tweeted.
Angela Ahrendts, the executive in charge of retail and online sales, had already decreed that all Apple Watch orders would be online, at least through what she called "the initial launch period."
Separately this week, Business Insider published what it said was an Ahrendts-penned memo in which she urged employees to press customers to order online. "The Apple Store app and our online store make it much easier to purchase Apple Watch and the new MacBook," she wrote in the message [emphasis added]. "Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order."
The lack of in-store purchasing for the Apple Watch, while unprecedented, made more sense, as Apple would not have wanted to turn away customers when the inventory evaporated within minutes early this morning, and likely also didn't want to slow orders by demanding the required personal setup at retail. But the missing MacBook seems different: Although the laptop is thinner and lighter than its ancestors, it's not a new category that needs hand-holding.
Stephen Baker, an analyst at the NPD Group who specializes in U.S. technology retailing, speculated this week that Apple may be pivoting its sales strategy, stressing the "showrooming" aspects of its outlets and deemphasizing the stores' current high-volume sales approach.
The missing MacBooks -- in the past Apple always had supplies, albeit often limited, of new products in its stores -- hints that Baker may be on to something.
Online orders for the MacBook kicked off today; by 8 a.m. ET, the silver and space-gray models showed ship dates of between one and three business days, while the gold-colored laptop was delayed three to four weeks.
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