Why withholding Apple Watch from U.K.’s biggest mobile retailer is a brilliant move

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Don't expect to see the Apple Watch at the Carphone Warehouse. Photo: Flickr/Jose and Roxanne CC
Don't expect to see the Apple Watch at the Carphone Warehouse. Photo: Flickr/Jose and Roxanne CC

The Apple Watch could be Apple’s next mass-market iPod-like product, but the company’s not quite ready to see it popping up everywhere yet.

With the Apple Watch launch just 24 days away, Apple has reportedly declined to supply the U.K.’s largest mobile phone retailer, Carphone Warehouse, with its debut wearable device.

“We would love to be able to stock the Apple Watch,” Carphone’s chief executive Graham Stapleton told The Telegraph newspaper. “I’ve got to be careful what I say but I think they are just going another way with it. We have not been given the opportunity.”

What that “other way” is has been obvious for some time now. Although Carphone Warehouse has 800 stores around Britain, Apple is targeting high-end fashionable retailers for its first wave of Apple Watch sales.

Non-Apple Store locations where you’ll be able to buy an Apple Watch include Selfridges in London (where the Apple Watch is also set to feature in a window display), Galeries Lafayette in Paris, the Isetan department store in Toyko, Berlin’s The Corner, and others. Apple is opening mini-stores in these locations, where the Apple Watch will be sold in close proximity to other luxury brands such as Cartier and Tiffany’s.

Apple has also focused more on getting the Apple Watch into the pages of high-end fashion magazines, such as Vogue, than it has on tech publications. At its recent “Spring Forward” event, Apple skipped out on some of the tech press in favor of fashionistas.

It’s a smart strategy on Apple’s part, especially considering that wearables haven’t really taken off as a mass-market product category when other companies, such as Samsung, have tried them. By associating the Apple Watch with luxury brands, Apple later has the option of selling the device in places like Carphone Warehouse, while still keeping the sheen of exclusivity.

It’s a move few tech companies other than Apple could afford to do.

In the meantime, Carphone Warehouse still works in Apple’s favor, despite being barred from selling Apple Watches. The Telegraph reports that the chain is planning to devote more space in stores to smartwatches, since it assumes there will be a rise in interest on the back of Apple Watches.

In other words, the wearables product category continues to be hyped and, when Apple’s finally ready to see $349 Apple Watches go on sale everywhere, the market’s already established.

All in all, a brilliant move on Angela Ahrendt’s part. Was was that people said about her possibly being a worthy CEO successor to Tim Cook?