Consumers purchasing iPads at an Apple store in Beijing on Sept 17, at the official Chinese launch of the popular tablet computer. Chen Xiaogen / For China Daily
BEIJING - Apple Inc on Wednesday launched its official online store in China, as part of an effort to curb the gray market and expand its business among domestic consumers.
The new online store offers a wide range of Apple products, including the iPad and iPhone 4.
"We are thrilled to open our newest online store in China," said Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer. "With personalized engraving, configure-to-order options and free shipping on everything, the Apple Store is a great destination for our customers in China."
The store is a part of Apple's aggressive Chinese expansion strategy. Apple had already opened two new stores when it launched the popular iPhone 4 in the Chinese market on Sept 25.
The company currently has 4 stores in China, but announced early this year that it will open 25 Apple stores in the country by the end of 2011.
Chinese customers will need to use their bank card to register an Apple account for purchasing goods, and the company will deliver directly to customers' homes free of charge.
Previously, customers had to go to one of the four Apple stores to pick up their orders.
The new store will accept online payments from 22 Chinese banks, in addition to the most popular third-party online payment tool, Alipay.
Luo Rongke, an engineer who works in Beijing, booked his iPhone 4 from Apple's official partner, China Unicom, on Sept 17. He said that he will try Apple's online store in the future, as it is more convenient.
"The opening of Apple's Chinese online store will have a very positive effect on its sales performance in the domestic market, especially for their expansion into the second-tier and third-tier markets," said Hover Xiao, senior analyst from the market research firm IDC.
After the Chinese launch of the iPhone 4 and iPad , scalpers hired people to line up outside Apple stores and buy the products. They then resold them, charging an extra 600 yuan ($89.79) per device.
According to the Shanghai Morning Post, the company's Beijing store in Sanlitun closed temporarily on Sept 29 because of scalping activities.
Apple has now ceased direct sales of the iPhone 4 at its retail outlets in Beijing and Shanghai, and will now only accept orders online as it attempts to curb rampant scalping.
Xiao said that this measure will help to regulate the company's distribution system and curb the gray market.