It may not be as modernistic as the all glass and steel Apple Store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, but Israel is set to get an Apple Store of its own. It’s an Apple Department in an electronics store in the duty-free zone of Ben Gurion Airport. Though just a section in an existing store, it will be the first official representation of the popular tech company in Israel – and Apple fans here hope that the move could lead to lower prices on Apple products.
On Sunday, Israeli tech site Geekster reported that the first true Apple sales outlet in Israel would open in the ALM Electronics store in Ben Gurion’s duty-free area. Until now, Apple products were sold in Israel through a local distributor, mostly at the iDigital chain of stores. The iDigital stores strongly resemble Apple stores, down to the store’s logo, but they are not run by Apple.
Not that most customers would care – except for the price factor. Consumers have accused iDigital of significantly inflating the prices on a large number of Apple products, from MacBook laptops to iPhones and iPads. iDigital, for its part, has blamed the price differential on a variety of factors, like unfavorable exchange rates, supply shortages from its European distributors, the 18% VAT (value added tax) charges tacked onto nearly every product sold in Israel.
Still, a quick check of iDigital’s prices yielded some confirmation of the claims. An Apple MacBook Air 11 inch model with a 128 GB hard drive sells for NIS 4,699 ($1,305) on iDigital’s web site, 64% higher than the $839 it costs on Amazon.com. A MacBook Air 13.3″ 256G, at NIS 6,279 ($1,744), is 6% more expensive in Israel than it is at $1,099 at Amazon’s US site. And an iPad Air Wi-Fi/Cellular 16GB Silver model costs NIS 2,849 ($791.38) on the iDigital site, compared to $595 on Amazon, which markets from the US and Europe.
In several e-mails and press statements, iDigital has said that there is little it can do to cut prices, because many of the price factors are out of its control. As a third-party importer, iDigital may have its hands tied – but the new Apple department at Ben Gurion Airport will have its prices set by the company itself, one reason Apple fans are hopeful they will come down.
Another reason for falling prices, according to tech blogger Arik Sheiner, is the new store’s location. “Most Israelis know that the duty-free stores in Ben Gurion Airport are not always cheaper than at stores elsewhere (in Israel or abroad), so it’s unlikely anyone would buy devices there unless they were significantly cheaper than outside the duty free zone in Israel.” In addition, he said, Israelis who are on their way out of the country will buy products at the Apple outlet in Israel only if they can get a deal comparable to that they can get in London, New York, or any of the other many cities with Apple Stores that sell products for significantly less than they currently cost in Israel.
The airport store is set to open at the beginning of November, which is also when the iPhone 6 models go on sale, the Geekster site said.