Apple forgoes long lines with latest retail strategy

Written By kom nampuldu on Jumat, 10 April 2015 | 18.18

The tradition of standing in line for the latest Apple gadget is over, the company claims — but the proud ritual of lost sleep rages on.

Instead of queuing outside of stores like they've done with iPhones, Apple fanatics worldwide faced staying awake until the wee hours of Friday morning to pre-order the new Apple Watch online.

With store purchases of the Apple Watch banned for the initial launch, the watch was slated to become available online beginning at 12:01 a.m. — just after midnight — Pacific time.

On the East Coast, that meant logging onto Apple's Web site at 3:01 a.m. to grab one of the nifty new wrist computers — expected to be in short supply.

"About to have a first tonight … gonna wake up at 3AM to preorder an Apple product!" a Twitter user identifying himself as "Aaron" tweeted Thursday from Florida. "Maybe I can convince the wife to wake up with me."

Mashable founder Pete Cashmore meanwhile was slated to live broadcast his own 3 a.m. ET Apple Watch purchase on live-streaming app Meerkat.

CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla poked fun at Apple Watch-obsessed Jon Steinberg, CEO of Daily Mail North America, saying his "plan" was to "wake up at 2:45 am ET," then "log onto Apple store" and hit "refresh, refresh, refresh …"

The ruckus on social media is poised to supplant the spectacle of bleary-eyed Apple devotees huddled outside stores on local TV news. For years, that kind of mainstream media coverage had been widely viewed as a public-relations coup for Apple.

Apple WatchPhoto: AP

But Apple's new retail chief Angela Ahrendts — formerly the CEO of British luxury label Burberry — appears to disagree.

"To provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can, we will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period," Ahrendts said in a Thursday statement.

Apple expects that "strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch," as devotees grab models that start at $350 and go all the way up to $17,000, Ahrendts said.

In an attempt to curb the formation of long lines, Apple was also slated at 3 a.m. Eastern to begin taking reservations for customers who want to come into stores to try on the watch before buying online. Appointments were set for 15-minute increments.

Nevertheless, Apple's flagship on Fifth Avenue looked as vulnerable to spontaneous line formation as ever: Usually open 24 hours a day, the location will close during the night to set up the displays before reopening at 9 a.m. Friday.

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