[Please note] I also published this story on Medium.
You may not think Poland has the user base necessary for Apple to be relevant or infrastructure available to support an industry of new Apple products — such as iPhones, iPads and Macs of various specifications, models and sizes — however it does. The user base is there, the fanbase is there, and various retailers are also there that is making it happen, with one in particular making a presence.
The retailer in question is iSpot and it has been operating in the country since 1991, according to Piotr Krakowiak, the manager of iSpot Marszałkowska street here in Warsaw, Poland. There was some physical store presence since 1991 in the country that had been built up significantly since.
”When it comes to the actual retailer, 1991 is the year it started operating in Poland, he said. ”It exists in many cities that now include Krakow, Wroclaw (Breslau), the tri-cities (Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia) and there are nine, almost 10 stores in Warsaw alone.”
I’ve noticed the stores myself after coming here to Warsaw from California, which is the hub of Apple and where Apple Stores are everywhere to be seen. I was struck how similar iSpot is in the way it functions and Piotr reaffirmed my suspicions that it functions based on the Apple Store model.
”We constsantly work alongside Apple,” Piotr said. ”The design and look, the overall regulations and service are discussed first with Apple and based on the overall model you see in U.S.-based Apple Stores. We are the one and only Apple Premium reseller here, but we are a separate company from Apple and the Apple Stores. We are independent from Apple.”
This independence has advantages as the company functions as an independent entity offering additional services that Apple Stores in U.S. may not. While I walked inside one location on Marszałkowska street where Piotr manages, I saw the latest Apple products inside. This included various Macs, Macbooks, Macbook Airs, iPads, iPad Pros (including a display unit with a keyboard attachment for customers to try out) and iPhones that were brand new and up-to-date in specs.
I also saw various headsets from Beats and a couple other supported companies as well as peripherals, such as iPad cases. It seems the retailer offers various brands you may not even see in a U.S.-based Apple Store, hence its independence status. Piotr told me that iSpots even offer specific products customers can order by request.
”We have our website online, and infolinia (information line to connect with),” he said. ”We allow customers to call and order on the phone, then to bring in the product by request.”
The independence may have a bit of a lowdown , however, for those customers visiting from U.S. and used to the Genius Bar the U.S. stores offer. However, Piotrs reaffirmed that an alternative method exists to help these customers fix their devices when needing it.
”We don’t have the Genius Bar, but we have a an authorized service provider,” he said. This means when someone has a problem with an Apple product, they can come to ask and we will service it.”
This is great news for anyone visiting the nation with an Apple product in-hand as well as anyone looking for a new device to purchase as iSpot offers a little bit for both types of users.
In terms of how efficient the retailer is in getting new products after Apple announces them and brings them onto the market, it is a two- to three-week wait window, Krakowiak said. What you will see when you walk into the stores will generally be new and up-to-date products.
Many of the products I saw were priced very competitively — when converted from Polish złoty to dollars — in that they were to that of the U.S. if not more so. Despite the fact the whole economy functions differently and a product that costs say $1,000 in U.S might be affordable, the same price might be out of reach for a Polish person of the same standing. Yet, despite this and the prices being this high, the demand is definitely here in Poland for such products.
The other thing you will notice when walking around one of the main Polish cities, Warsaw in particular, is how the company is constantly expanding. Again, this shows the drive for Apple products here and the demand is definitely felt in the air.
”The company, iSpot, is growing, Piotr said. ”We are opening a new saloon mid September (by the time you read this it should be open) in the galerii północnej (northern mall). The design and outlook will be similar to this one and that characterises the Apple Stores.”
The actual brand, iSpot, is independent from Apple, but is a subsidiary of Hili Ventures based in Malta, he said. That is the main company and owner of iSpot. And the firm functions solely in Poland as of now.
This is really interesting because walking among the streets of Warsaw I did notice a couple other Apple product resellers, such as TechMac (which is evident looking at the feature list on its website focuses more on services and various business partnerships related to Apple products and may not mind working outside Apple’s warranty even offering a service to renew the products) however, none of them had that look of the Apple Stores and the number of products and services offered in one location. Nor were they as widespread as iSpot, offering so many locations on spot in the capital.
Another interesting thing is how Piotr mentioned iSpot functioning solely in Poland and not say in Ukraine, Belarus or other nearby eastern countries. I have talked to a Ukrainian friend who said that Ukrainians come to Poland to buy Apple products and there isn’t much available there in terms of resellers at all.
However, I have seen various resellers and distributors of Apple products in Germany, so this seems to be the model across EU. On the other hand, iSpot seems to be as dominant of a distributor and service provider as Apple Stores in the U.S. are.
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