Chinese officials shutter some fake Apple stores

Two closed in Kunming, but three that use Apple logo remain open

Chinese authorities have closed two unauthorized Apple stores in Kunming following an investigation prompted by a blogger who posted photos last week of one outlet.

According to a local newspaper's story posted on the city's website, the two stores were operating without a business license.

Three other stores that were also using Apple's logo without the company's permission were inspected, but found to have the proper permits and allowed to remain open. The closures were the result of a probe of more than 300 IT businesses in the city, the report claimed.

Last Wednesday, a 27-year-old American woman who lives in Kunming published photos of a counterfeit store on her BirdAbroad blog. Her photos and detailed description of the store, which parroted Apple's look down to the blue T-shirts worn by salespeople, were used and expanded on by numerous news organizations.

The story published on the Kunming city's site noted the intense media attention.

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China -- the province borders both Laos and Vietnam -- does not have a legitimate Apple retail store. Currently, Apple has only four company-owned stores in the country, two in Beijing and two in Shanghai.

According to the Kunming city website, investigators did not find any counterfeit Apple hardware in any of the stores.

The phony stores -- BirdAbroad later posted photos of other counterfeit stores, including an elaborate one in Xi'an, a city of more than 8 million southwest of Beijing -- are just one sign of Chinese consumers' appetite for Apple products.

Last week, Apple executives said that sales in what it calls Greater China -- the People's Republic, Hong Kong and Taiwan -- during the quarter ending June 30 were six times that of the same period last year.

Revenue in Greater China was $3.8 billion for the quarter, or 13% of Apple's total income for the period.

"I firmly believe that we're just scratching the surface right now," said Tim Cook, Apple's COO, referring to the company's opportunities in China during the Q&A portion of an earnings call with Wall Street.

Analysts agreed with Cook.

"Several years ago, [China] was a region you wouldn't think of a rich opportunity for Apple," noted Brian Marshall of Gleacher & Co. in an interview last week. "Now [growth there] is just unbelievable."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

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