Chinese media are quoting grey importers – those who smuggle gadgets across borders, evading taxes and making a quick profit – as saying that there are already more than 200,000 new iPad models in the mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen. These devices have mostly come in from neighboring Hong Kong, as well as from the US. Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iPad launched in those two territories simultaneously last Friday – but has not been given a launch date in mainland China.
Shenzhen borders onto Hong Kong, so there’s the usual foot traffic of smugglers carrying the newest iPads in baggage or about their person. But ethnic Chinese immigrants and overseas Chinese students have been ensuring that plenty are coming in from the US as well, with a noticeable number of queuers at Apple stores in American cities being ethnic Chinese in the business of buying numerous devices so as to pass them on to the grey importers.
How much is this worth to the gadget mules? Those in the US are reportedly netting about US$20 for each iPad they buy and pass on to the smugglers. In Hong Kong, the fee is a lower 80 RMB ($12.65). But that still can represent a very lucrative business for the cross-border carriers, who are often mainland Chinese who would very likely earn less per day doing a conventional job. The rest of the price mark-up that gets passed onto consumers is dictated by the main grey import agents depending on the balance of supply and demand. It’s conceivable that some of the very first smuggled new iPads into mainland China will change hands for as much as 10,000 RMB ($1,580), before the price settles down to a more routine level that’s only, say, 500 RMB above the proper retail price.
For now, with such a weight of grey imported iPads into Shenzhen‘s notorious gadget malls at Hua Qiang Bei – to say nothing of those arriving by air or train into Shanghai and Beijing – prices won’t be too ridiculous for locals who want to buy. If previous models are anything to go by, regulatory approval will delay the official launch here for many months.
[Source: CUTV – article in Chinese]