Qatar with a population of 1.55 million (as of 31 August 2011 by Qatar Statistics Authority) is made of about 80% expats (non-Qatari) from more than 40 countries, yet, according to a marketing manager of a Premium Reseller in Doha told me that they estimate about 6,000 Mac users in the country. And that approximation was in 2010. No idea as well how they got this number, though.
On the retail front, there are three types of stores that sell Apple products: the renowned Apple Store; Apple Premium Reseller; and, independent resellers. In this context, outlets refer to the shops selling Apple laptops.
The Apple Store is the one actually owned and operated by Apple, Inc. and we do not have that in Doha – yet. Apple Premium/Authorized Resellers, on the other hand, is a ‘status’ available only to international (outside of the US) resellers in countries that have no Apple Store presence, in which case this status allows these third parties to essentially act as ‘Apple Stores.’
Lastly, the other independent retail outlets that also carry Apple merchandise in their product lines devoid of the ‘Apple Store feel’.
In Doha, we have only iSpot as the only Apple Authorized Reseller that also offer authorized repair centers with certified technicians and staff.
As of this writing, other independent, albeit, popular stores selling Apple products and laptops, include Carrefour, Virgin Megastore, Jarir Bookstore, Fifty-One East, e- Pro Solutions and Office One.
If you have been following our Price Watch ‘reports’ or quite familiar with Doha prices, Virgin Megastore are infamous for selling Apple laptops with at least, on occasion, QR 500 higher price tag from other independent retail store or even the Premium Resellers. Although, in a rare occasion of last month’s MacBook Air Price Watch that they have the lowest price of the MacBook Airs, almost certainly, getting rid of their few remaining stocks and anticipating the newly released MacBook Air to arrive in their stores. Nevertheless, Virgin Megastore remain to be the place most people head for Arabic and English books and magazines. Virgin Megastore are in Landmark (4418 2242) and Villaggio Mall (4413 5823).
Jarir Bookstore has two big showrooms in Salwa Road (4444 0212) and in Al Rayyan (4411 4322). Aside from Costa coffee shops, one of the main reasons to visit here, however, is the large collection of international magazines.
Office 1 Superstores (4465 9244), located in Salwa Road near Midmac, is an electronic equipment and office and school supplies franchise from Carlin in Madrid. Although Office 1 has been popular in other countries to be a self-service superstore and online shopping, their Qatar online site has never been updated! Last update was in May 2010 (accessed on 15 September 2011), so it is better to just check out their shop to get the recent prices. Don’t rely as well on ‘product knowledge,’ as we inquired through phone the prices of the recent MacBook Airs and Pros but apparently not aware of i7 nor Thunderbolt.
Fifty-One East (4425 7777) is one of Qatar’s premier store for luxury and prestige brand from watches, and jewelry, fashion and fine apparel, cosmetics, fragrances, and of course, electronics. Showrooms are located in Al Maha Center, Salwa Road and in City Centre. Costs, though, costs of Mac products, are competitive, but if one has to buy here maybe driven with low-cost or special deals (typically, a free laptop bag, vouchers, or a USB stick) and essentially, familiar with the actual Apple model/unit to purchase as it may take time before they have the recent models. We were also made to understand that they are looking into being an Apple Premium Reseller.
Finally, who is not familiar with this hypermarket chain headquartered in France, Carrefour? It’s the place to go at almost anytime of the day (they close at midnight and even 1am during Ramadan) and you can practically get everything here. The prices of Apple products are normally lower by at least QR 100 from other independent resellers and quite popular to locals and residents because of expediency. Although, I think they are extra vigilant in their pricing strategy for their Apple products as they have this “Refund 10 times” promotion. In 2010, they partnered with iSpot in providing technical assistance to shoppers. We still need to confirm if this ‘project’ is still on going. Expect numbers of “biodegradable” plastic bags (say what?) as well when you do your groceries. Huge Carrefour supermarkets are in Landmark, City Centre, and in Villaggio and you can phone their customer service at 8800 7323.
Now, as the FIFA 2022 host, it is expected that Qatar’s population will radically increase in the coming years with all the expected developments and creation of new cities outside of Doha. Thus, Apple resellers in the country will increase in numbers.
Will there be an Apple Retail Store in Qatar? Will answer on my next article. Watch out for it.