Apple’s retail chief rallies employees before watch launch

The long, slow run-up to the Apple Watch launch just got a little weirder.

One week after emailing employees to clarify that the smartwatch will not be stocked in stores on April 24, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts sounded many of the same notes in a video message to employees. Acknowledging customers’ continued confusion about whether they’ll be able to buy a watch in stores on Friday, Ahrendts stressed that the company is sticking to online-only orders for now due to high demand and limited supply.

Customers who pre-ordered the watch will begin receiving shipments Friday, and Ahrendts  reminded employees to help them get the gadget up and running. But it remains unclear just how many customers will have watches to play with Friday — most models of the watch slipped to back-order shortly after sales began.

The watch’s unconventional launch has left many Apple observers scratching their heads. Apple fans are used to having to wait for what they want — customers across the Bay Area camped out in September to be among the first to buy the iPhone 6, as they have for previous editions of the powerhouse phone. Nevertheless, they can usually trust that if their devotion is strong enough — and they pack their sleeping bags — they will walk away with the product first. That’s why customers are so perplexed this time around, Ken Segall, an advertising expert who once worked on Apple campaigns, wrote on his blog.

“This time, the reality was quite different from the expectation,” he wrote. “I can’t remember Apple ever playing with words and expectations as it did here.”

Angela Ahrendts stressed that Apple has not abandoned its blockbuster product launches — the watch just demanded a different approach. Here’s hoping the iPhone 6S is a gadget worth camping out for.

Above: Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts is counseling employees on how to handle the Apple Watch’s unconventional launch (Getty Images).


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  • Martinicat

    I watched the video. It raised a question in my mind of … “why the reassurance?” Also, strange that she would need to remind them repeatedly to read the materials they already have. Is this really a problem in the organization?

    • kpom

      Watch sales are a lot more hands-on (literally and figuratively) than iPhone or iPad sales. They need to be set up, people want to try them on, etc. It’s not just grabbing a box out of the back room, scanning it in, and swiping a credit card.

      • Martinicat

        Watch sales are hands-on! I love it!!! But with your gentle humor you have eliminated my skepticism on Mademoiselle’s video to the troops. Cheers!

  • freddysrevng2

    I don’t remember Steve Jobs whining about “a whole new segment” being a delivery issue around the launch of the iPad….

    But don’t you worry… Apple will never “come clean”, as to, what has, actually, gone on here and the sycophant “Apple Hype Media” and analysts will never ask….iPerfect.

    • kpom

      There were 6 configurations of the original iPad from what I remember (3 different storage sizes, with and without cellular), and there were long lines and short supplies for weeks. Product launches under Steve Jobs were complete disasters and it always took weeks or even months for supply to catch up with demand. Heck, Apple sold 275,000 original iPhones the first weekend and they couldn’t keep up. They likely sold 10 times as many watches. The only high profile product launch that went off without a hitch was the iPad 4, which was under Tim Cook. The closest after that was the iPhone 6.

  • theghostofnetscape

    Honestly, I just don’t see how any of this matters. As long as the watch is delivered and it *works* as promised, all will be fine, and no one will care come June. I would much rather have there be some confusion along with about 3 million pre-orders and counting, along with no major technical glitches than a hype-shrouded, line-inducing launch that caters only to the news cycle.

  • kpom

    Perhaps it’s possible they tried something new because they didn’t necessarily want long lines around the block, or perhaps because they weren’t sure there would be long lines around the block and didn’t want the launch to be viewed as a “failure” because there were “only” hundreds and not thousands camped outside the flagship stores? Also, there aren’t versions of the iPhone going for $10,000-$17,000, or even $1100, and no other Apple product is sold in as many configurations. People buying a gold watch aren’t going to go camp out, and until orders came in Apple had no idea which models would sell in which quantities.

    It looks like those who ordered the white sport band stainless steel watch will be getting their watches sooner than expected as “June” turned into “preparing for shipment” for many, while other configurations are still shipping later. That tells me that supply of that particular configuration matched demand better than, say, the space black with the link band.