updated 12:51 pm EDT, Tue August 21, 2012
Company eyeing region for growth opportunities
Apple has made legal and key personnel moves in Russia that indicate that the company will finally begin offering direct sales in the region, long a target for expansion. According to a report in the independent Moscow News, the company has registered a new subsidiary know has "Apple Rus" ad hired a director general for operations.
Legal advisor Vitaly Morozko will handle regulatory and other obstacles to allow the company to offer products directly both online and, in time, through its own retail stores rather than resellers. Sales in Russia could begin as soon as early next year, according to the report.
Apple has had an official branch in Russia since 2007, but uses diHouse as its distributor for independent stores. While diHouse continues to handle most distribution in the country, two others -- Marvel and OSC -- have joined in to handle demand. Carriers Vimpelcom and MTS handle iPhone distribution. It's assumed that newly-formed Apple Rus will begin handling distribution for its own operations, leaving its current distributors to handle various regions around the country.
Apple could be considering taking on its own distribution of iPhones in Russia, as it is reportedly unhappy with its current iPhone distributors, who focus on shop sales rather than the wider online market. The report notes that Apple had sent representatives to find suitable store locations in Moscow as early as spring of last year, but thus far the company has not located a property it likes.
Hopes that the opening of eventual Apple Stores and more direct sales would lower prices in Russia may be premature, the paper notes, but any future expansion by Apple in the region could shorten the delay between the announcement of a product in North America and its arrival in Russia. Most Apple product sold in Russia will continue to be imported from Europe rather than from the US, which may keep exchange rate prices high. Direct distribution may help lower the cost of iPhones, however, if Apple takes over direct distribution.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer have both mentioned Russia as a growing market for iPhones and other Apple products in recent months, though the region pales beside China and the general Asia-Pacific region overall. The company is simultaneously studying how to further leverage developing markets such as Brazil and the Russian Federation, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.