Apple’s digital lifestyle comes to Amman

DIGITAL LIFESTYLE | Macs and iPods will make a fashionable retail appearance in Jordan next Sunday. Ahmad Humeid previews Jordan’s first ‘iSystem’ store

Apple is back. It has certainly taken quite some time for the Middle East to feel the seemingly unstoppable energy of Apple’s global resurgence. But now, driven by demand for the iPod, as well as its computers, the Apple brand is ready to make an impact in the region.

Combine that with Jordan’s ever expanding retail revolution and it becomes clear why, next Sunday, Amman will witness the opening of its first major Apple Center in the Wakalat Street of the Sweifieh shopping district.

Designed to resemble the famed Apple Stores that Apple directly runs in the US, Canada, Japan and the UK, the opening of the Center, called iSystem, will signal the return of Apple’s brand in a strong manner to the Jordanian market. A retail area of 280 square meters will make iSystem the largest Apple-dedicated store in the Middle East, the owners claim.

Apple computers have nearly disappeared from Jordan’s public consciousness in the past 15 yeas. In the late 80s and early 90s the Apple logo stood proudly on the Commodore Street in Shmeisani, as Jordanian IT pioneers like Karim Kawar (now Jordan’s US ambassador) and Basil Tutunji, were energetically selling Apple’s hardware to companies and individuals who were getting introduced to the desktop publishing revolution of that time.

But Apple’s expensive prices and the onslaught of cheaper PC alternatives have gradually wiped out Apple presence in the local market. Today most people think that only graphic designers use Apple.

“We want to change the perception about Apple’s products. They are not just for designers. The iPod is part of today’s teenagers digital lifestyle and the retail business is the future,” said Marwan Ziadat, Jordan’s country manager of Grapheast who’s company is partnering up with Modern System, an authorized Apple reseller to launch the iSystem Apple Center.

“People in Jordan buy technology based on technical specifications. Our aim is to introduce them to the concept of the digital lifestyle through our store.” Apple’s strategy over the past few years has been to reinvent itself as a digital lifestyle company. The PC, which is becoming part of the living room, is considered the ‘digital hub’ into which our cameras, iPods and entertainment systems will connect. Communicating this to consumers was a main reason why Apple, in the face of scepticism in the market, decided to launch a chain of stores across the US and other regions. The strategy was a huge success. Apple today has over one hundred stores which it runs directly.

Ziadat wants to bring to this philosophy to Jordan. The Amman store will enhance people experience of technology in multiple ways. A demo area will allow people to “play with products and try before they buy”. An educational zone and a kids area will feature sessions for schools, universities and the general public around Apple’s iLife photo, video and music software as well as professional applications for photographers and designers. The ‘Genius Bar’, a highly popular concept taken directly from Apple’s US stores, will allow Apple users to get personal, one-on-one technical support by appointment.

Delivering on these promises will not be easy. But Ziadat is confident that the store’s Apple Certified staff will be able to answer most questions and inquiries. “This is a new concept so definitely there will be a learning curve for us,” he says.

Another problem which has bogged down Apple’s presence in Jordan has always been the lack of stock on-hand. Waiting times up to three weeks were nothing unusual when buying Apple hardware. Contrast that to the ubiquitous availability of Windows based desktop and laptops in the market. Ziadat says that iSystem has decided to take the risk and put more merchandize in stock. “If you go to some electronics stores in Amman, you might find one or two iPods on display. We are stocking 1500 iPods,” he enthusiastically says. “We will also test a distribution plan in cooperation with Aramex Media to place Apple corners in their stores. We want to show we are thinking big when it comes to the Jordanian market,” he adds.

A sneak peak into the store revealed that it will carry a considerable amount of iPod accessories, Crumpler computer bags and other objects of desire.

The store also wants to tackle the perception that Apple’s products are expensive, by stressing lower cost offering such as the Mac Mini, offering student discounts and financing plans in agreement with a bank to make it easier for people to own Apple products.

The stores launch next Sunday will be followed by an advertising campaign and a media event later in March.

Bringing the complete Apple experience to the region remains challenging. Next Sunday’s store launch will not be featuring Apple’s latest hardware offerings based on intel processors. Ziadat estimates that it will take tow to three months for Intel-based Macs to make it to Jordan. Undoubtedly, ‘grey market’ computer sellers will have these systems earlier. But as an authorized reseller, Ziadat stresses that going through the official reseller channel is the safer option when it comes to support and maintenance.

The launch of iSystem will being delight to Jordan’s Mac users. But it will also be a technology-lifestyle retail experiment that is worth watching closely.


Read these related posts on 360east:

2 Responses to “Apple’s digital lifestyle comes to Amman”

  1. ifoAppleStore » Amman Store Ready to Open Says:

    [...] tem Apple Centre in Amman (Jordan) is ready to open, and has posted a complete pre-opening report. He notes the store will re-introduce Apple retailing to the country, and the owners intend [...]

  2. Basem Says:

    Ahmad

    Since I arrived to Riyadh a year and a half ago, I eyed an Apple store in one of its streets, bookmarked it for a visit that never took place!

    Lack of interest in iPods (my Creative M credit-card size with its lousy key interface and 1GB is doing just fine) and the fact that I still harbor the typical-ist view that Apple computers are for the Western-Amman-Villa-cum-graphic-design-studio venture; are the reasons for not yet paying the store a visit…

    Unless they acquire a minimum of 20% share of the SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprise) in Jordan; they’ll have hard time staying afloat trying to sell their Macs to spoiled teenagers (along with grownups) & rich expats from the east!

    Why would any of the store’s potential “lifestyle” customers opt for bottling themselves into a Mac platform & then limit themselves to a choice of software that would most probably be paid for?

    My pessimistic speculation would be: this store (though not a fully fledged Apple store) will at some point sink into selling assembled computers, parts, cheap Taiwanese gizmos & accessories from the local bulk suppliers like any other PC store.

    But, you intrigued interest in me to go and visit the store today and see what’s on offer, I’ll hate it if I end up making a purchase!

Leave a Reply