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'Customers need choice, they want to be able to try products that work alongside Apple.

"We have to use Apple-branded collateral in the window; that restricts the message which can differentiate you as a store. Apple wants all the stores to look the same, I understand that desire for uniformity," said one reseller worker.

"But customers need choice, they want to be able to try products that work alongside Apple."

There are 1,500 premium resellers worldwide of which more than 50 are in the UK, Ireland and Jersey. There will be fewer after January, though.

Word on the street is that Bath-based premium reseller FarPoint may drop the Apple premium badge from the start of next year, yet it is the only premium dealer in that corner of Blighty and Apple's own regional store does not offer technical services.

Despite repeated approaches by The Channel, the premium reseller did not want to publicly comment.

Other sources in the Mac channel said premium reseller Western Computer, which has already refitted its Cheltenham, Leamington and Preston stores, will open a version-two shop in Cirencester, east Gloucestershire.

It has, however, closed its Swindon office, and it is not yet clear what will happen to its Bristol operation. The company's directors did not return calls for comment.

Robert Peckham, CEO at channel services provider Mac Technology, said: "Apple is changing the rules and it will be interesting to see how dealers fare when they don't have a seal of approval as an Apple premium reseller."

He said it is essential premium resellers choose locations where Apple does not have a presence and they may even find Apple sends them referrals.

The ample notice period Apple gave UK premium outlets has afforded many firms time to save up or find the cash required to makeover each store as required.

Stormfront, Apple largest premium reseller in the UK, has 20 v2 outlets - with four more set to open before Christmas including one in Middlesborough, Sutton Coldfield, Epson and Luton.

James Collard, Stormfront retail director, claimed the revamp had "brought the shop front to a quality that you expect and associate with the Apple brand - the layout, flooring, lighting, furniture".

He said the company is an "advocate" of the version-two design and all its revamped stores had enjoyed an "uplift in sales for quarters afterwards".

It seems size, like in other areas of life, really does matter in the world of Apple. A better option for some of the smaller premium resellers may be to get out of retail and help Apple carve a niche in business verticals where adoption of the iPad is growing - maybe that way lies success rather than Corian-topped furniture. ®

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