Scalpers see lacklustre sales for new iPhone models in China, with some offering less than original price
Only several dozen people were seen queuing at Apple’s Causeway Bay store when it opened on Friday morning, after the tech giant launched its XS and XR models in Hong Kong
Retailers and resellers in Hong Kong and mainland China reported one of their worst sale records for the latest models of iPhones when they were made available on Friday.
Just several dozen people were seen queuing outside the Apple store in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong before it opened at 8am on Friday. Some who planned to resell the phones to scalpers only offered HK$1 (US$0.13) more than the original price. Some were even offered less.
Apple launched the latest XS and XR series on September 12 in the United States, with prices ranging from HK$6,499 to HK$12,499 (US$832 to US$1,600), depending on their size and storage capacity. Hongkongers had been able to place orders online since Friday last week.
Buyer Wilson Poon, 30, gave up on trying to resell his two 256GB iPhone XS Maxes to scalpers waiting outside the Causeway Bay store after he was offered less than what he had just paid.
“The scalpers here offer HK$100 lower [than the original of price of HK$10,799, US$1,382]. Sin Tat Plaza should offer HK$300-400 [US$38-51] higher than the original price, according to my experience,” he said, referring to the shopping centre in Mong Kok where numerous phone repair and accessories shops are located.
Ivy Wong, a 30-year-old clerk, also failed to resell her 256GB gold iPhone XS Max.
“The scalpers are offering to buy mine at the original price. I’ll see but if I can’t sell it, I might as well use it myself,” she said.
Half an hour after the walk-in sales started at 10am, scalpers would only take 512GB iPhone XS Max phones at HK$300-500 higher than the original price, while some refused to take any more of the models with smaller storage.
At about noon at Sin Tat Plaza, the smaller 64GB and 256GB iPhone XS were sold to shops at the mall at HK$249 to HK$399 lower than the original price, according to a local online forum.
It said that the larger models with the smallest storage capacity also did not do well, with the 64GB iPhone XS Max being resold at HK$1 more than the original price. But the one with the biggest storage capacity made a profit of HK$1,101 (US$141).
Sheung Leung from G World at Sin Tat Plaza, who sells the gadget mainly to local and mainland customers, said that profit was slashed by half compared to recent years.
“Two or three years ago, Hong Kong sold the product earlier than the mainland, so many mainland customers come deliberately to buy the phones. Now, only those who happen to be travelling here would drop by to get one,” Leung said.
Leung focused on scalping the iPhone XS Max because he believed people would prefer the larger screen, since most users watch TV shows and play games on their phones.
Ben Wong, 23, who said he has been scalping iPhones since 2014, recalled better times.
“In the past, the demand was high the supply was low. Now, the supply is high and the demand is lower,” he explained, citing the higher prices and the absence of fewer new functions.
“In the past, the phones cost HK$5,000 to HK$6,000. Now they’re more than HK$8,000.”
Retailers across the border in Shenzhen found sales disappointing as well, with one claiming that the new iPhone was one of the worst sales situations she had encountered for many years
At Huaqianbei, an electronics manufacturing hub in Shenzhen, smartphone retailer Cat Fu said she sold just two units of the iPhone XR in the morning of its debut.
The two phones – one gold and one silver – were bought in Hong Kong for HK$9,499 (8,290 yuan) and sold for 9,860 yuan (HK$11,289) in mainland China. The same model on Apple's official China website is 9,588 yuan (HK$10,977).
“The prices of the new iPhones are crazily high and ordinary consumers could not afford them. And most of the customers say they do not see a big difference between new iPhones and the old ones,” Fu said.
“Now we notice a lot of consumers are considering to buy older versions like iPhone 7 and iPhone 8.
“We know the current economic situation is not good and many people are strapped for cash. I could hardly become optimistic about the new iPhone sales this year.”
Li Yiqiang, who bought a gold Hong Kong-version of the 64GB iPhone XS Max at the price of 9,800 yuan (HK$11,220) in Huaqiangbei, said: “If I place an order in the Apple Store, I have to wait for 10 days to get one. But now I only pay 200 yuan (HK$229) more to get one immediately. Why not?” Li said.
“I do not feel excited to get the new one. The iPhone XS Max does not look very different from the older ones. I think Chinese people now are spoiled by multiple choices of mobile phones.”