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New iPad Meets a Chilly Reception in China, US Scalpers Returning iPads to Apple

Scalpers return iPads to an Apple Store in the US

The new iPad — what a stupid name — hasn’t been released yet in mainland China. But, like all iPads before it, it has found its way here via gadget scalpers in Hong Kong and the United States, who smuggle the devices into the country on the assumption that there will be a market for them. Previously, that has been so true that scalpers can sell the devices at obscene markups and still move product. But with the new iPad, things seem to be different.

The first clue came a few days ago, when the average price of gray-market new iPad imports dropped by 500 RMB ($79). Generally speaking, limited supply and extreme demand drives import prices up, not down, especially in the weeks immediately following the official overseas launch. when customers know the official China version of the device is likely still months away.

Then, perhaps in response to this, a large number of ethnically Chinese customers were seen returning bundles of new iPads to the New York Apple store yesterday. According to China Business News, these people were iPad scalpers who had planned to export the new iPads to China, but apparently for the first time ever, the gray imports from Hong Kong alone seem to be enough to meet the demand in China.

Part of the reason is that the supply from Hong Kong seems to have increased, and another reason may be that Chinese customs is rumored to be getting better at stopping US-based smugglers from getting the devices into China. But there is also a clear lack of interest in “the new iPad” when compared with previous Apple releases. When the device was first announced, I wrote a bit about why it might not hold a lot of appeal for China, but even I didn’t expect that that would actually affect sales. (After all, we wrote the same thing about the iPhone 4S, and that seems to be doing fine).

It will be interesting to see how much of this is lowered demand and how much is the increased Hong Kong supply driving prices down and US competitors out. The real China launch of the new iPad — whenever that is — should give us an indication of how excited people are about it. The norm for launches these days appears to be massive lines of scalpers and violence, so if we see anything less than that for the new iPad launch, then we’ll know for sure Apple’s latest shiny brick is a dud in the middle kingdom.

[China Business News via Sina Tech]


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