Lenovo apes Apple stores in China sales push
Taking a page from the playbook of Apple, a company it has already beaten in smartphone sales on the mainland, Lenovo is counting on a chain of retail stores to help it surpass leader Samsung Electronics.
The outlets offer the gleaming glass and wide counters found at Apple shops, with phones and tablets sitting on tables for customers to try out. Lenovo's Solution Centre takes the place of the Genius Bar, and staff look trim and neat in black polo shirts instead of Apple's blue T-shirts.
The retail outlets are part of a strategy to overtake Samsung in the world's biggest smartphone market, offering a range of devices in an environment starkly different from the typical Chinese electronics bazaar.
Chen Xudong, Lenovo's president of China operations, does not shy away from comparisons to Apple and a strategy that helped make the iPhone maker the world's most valuable technology firm.
"We want customers to feel free to play with the products, and that basically is quite similar" to Apple, Chen said. "The difference is we provide more choices for the customer."
Unlike Apple, which focuses the bulk of its sales energy on the iPhone 5, Lenovo's stores feature at least 10 IdeaPhone handsets ranging from 749 yuan (HK$942) to 3,299 yuan. The iPhone 5 ranges from 5,288 to 6,888 yuan, while Apple stores on the mainland offer two older models for as little as 3,088 yuan.
While both companies offer desktop and laptop computers, Lenovo's stores offer one product line that Apple does not: smart televisions that connect to the internet. And Lenovo has six tablets starting as low as 999 yuan.
Lenovo, best known globally for its ThinkPad laptops, is strengthening its push into other devices to tap changing consumer trends and protect it from slumping personal computer demand. It aimed to top Samsung's mainland smartphone sales within two years, said Chen.
In the past, Lenovo has relied on 40,000 partner-owned shops. Since it started offering smartphones in 2010, it has begun to emulate the retail strategy of Apple, by opening its own stores, first in Beijing, with plans for more in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.