At 550 King Street West in Waterloo, a little more than a mile from Research in Motion’s Technology Park, is the Conestoga Mall. Inside, as of last August 13th, local residents could buy iPhones, iPads and accessories at the Apple Store. There is not, nor has there ever been, a BlackBerry store in RIM’s hometown.
Research in Motion’s decline in the North American retail market, which began not long after Apple released its first iPhone, in 2007, has been well documented. The Wall Street Journal’s Will Connors, in a profile this past April, said “RIM has mostly decided to cede the continent and target the developing world in its own retail push.”
Today, Cantech Letter sources close to the company say RIM will soon close all its branded locations in the United States. The company operates nine airport locations, including ones in Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Atlanta, that are managed by Michigan-based Wireless Giant, which itself operates sixty wireless retail stores. RIM has just one stand-alone location, which was opened in 2007 in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Cantech sources says that store will soon be shut down.
Calls to that store yesterday were answered by an employee named Nathan, who said he had heard nothing about the store’s closing, but that there had been some recent problems with their phones.
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The closing of US-based locations contrasts the success the company is having in retail in other parts of the world. In April, RIM’s managing director of Middle East business, Sandeep Saihgal, told Bloomberg the company was planning to open stores across the Middle East, including locations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai.
Despite their troubles in the US and certain other established markets, BlackBerry is the number one smartphone in the UAE, RIM is the top smartphone vendor in Latin America with 35.8% market share, and number one in Africa, where its 44% share of the South African market is typical. BlackBerry is a smash hit in the Philippines, Thailand and especially in Indonesia, a country of 237-million people, where the lineup for the BlackBerry Bold earlier this year caused the kind of scene more associated with the iPhone in North America. Forty people were injured at Jakarta’s Pacific Place Mall after rumours spread a store there was low on the supply of the new BlackBerry Bold.
At press time, shares of Research in Motion on the TSX were up 1.7% to $7.30.
Note: To the knowledge of the author, Research in Motion has not publicly confirmed the closing of these stores.