Tesco offer shifts 400 iMacs a week

But Apple's still miffed

Updated UK grocer Tesco's latest trial run selling iMacs has come to an end, with 2000 machines being sold in five weeks, the store has claimed.

A pretty good result, you'd have thought, but Apple's not too happy about it, Macworld UK reports.

The Apple vs Tesco spat began before the iMacs were brought into the grocer's chain of superstores. Tesco claims it asked Apple to supply it with kit and the Mac maker refused. So it went overseas, bought a job-lot from an unnamed continental European Mac reseller, imported them into the UK and sold them for under Apple's own price.

It's not hard to imagine why Apple might have turned down Tesco's request. The grocer almost certainly wanted the kit at discount, something Apple is understandably unwilling to do. After all, it doesn't want to annoy its smaller resellers and, perhaps more importantly, big chains like John Lewis and Dixons/PC World. Maintaining good channel relationships is a delicate business.

The official reason is that Apple wanted its machines sold with "concrete benefits for customers, such as iMac-trained staff", according to an Apple spokesman cited by Macworld. Tesco, the company claims, could not provide that.

But Tesco is a stack-'em-high, sell-'em-low retailer. It wants to ship boxes, not offer in-store 'experiences'. It clearly reckons the iMac can sell on its own merits and price, and its trial run seems to confirm that.

Indeed, over in the US this is commonplace. As more than one reader has noted: "I find it funny that Apple was angered by the lack of 'iMac trained staff.' Over here in the states large resellers such as Sam's Club (Walmart owned) and Costco both sell iMacs and some Apple accessories for below Apple specified price. It's commonly known that not only is there no iMac trained staff there is no staff whatsoever!" (Thanks to Mark and others)

Apple's other objection is that Tesco "tampered with the product before selling them. They changed plugs and modem cables". Apple only has itself to blame - had it not effectively forced Tesco to go outside the UK, the grocer wouldn't have needed to swap non-UK power and modem cables for parts that connect to British power and phone sockets.

The Tesco trial's results are clear: buyers want cheaper iMacs and they don't necessarily need all the hand-holding Nanny Apple thinks is best for them.

We can understand Apple's desire to present the Mac as something special, something different from the hordes of Wintel boxes, but the bottom line is that, for a consumer product like the iMac, selling lots of machines and expanding the user base is more important. If Tesco can provide a channel to do so, let them. ®

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