Aug 27, 2013

    Lenovo opens snazzy shops to woo China consumers

    TAKING a leaf out of Apple's playbook, 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 in 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.

    Said Mr Chen Xudong, Lenovo's president of China operations: "We want customers to feel free to play with the products, and that basically is quite similar (to Apple). The difference is we provide more choices for the customer."

    Lenovo's stores feature at least 10 different IdeaPhone handsets, ranging from the 749-yuan (S$156) A376 up to the K900, priced at 3,299 yuan.

    While both companies offer desktop and laptop computers, Lenovo's stores offer one product line that Apple does not: smart TV sets that connect to the Internet. Lenovo also 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 PC demand. The company aims to top Samsung's China smartphone sales within two years, said Mr Chen.

    Lenovo opened its first company-owned shop last year, in Beijing. It added a second this month, and a third is to follow next month. In the next three years, it will open one or two locations each in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Mr Chen said.

    The broader range of products has helped Lenovo leap ahead of Apple in China. It surged to No. 2 in smartphone shipments in the second quarter of last year, from seventh the previous quarter, and has maintained that position over the past year.

    Samsung sells at almost 5,000 locations in China. Samsung led China's smartphone market with 18 per cent share in the second quarter, followed by Lenovo with 12 per cent, according to research firm Canalys.