BEIJING — It looks almost exactly like a sleek Apple store. Sales assistants in blue T-shirts with the company's logo chat with customers. Signs advertising the iPad 2 hang on the white walls. Outside, the famous logo sits next to the words "Apple Store" — one of the few clues the whole thing is a fake.
China, long known for producing counterfeit consumer gadgets, software and brand-name clothing, has reached a new piracy milestone — fake Apple stores.
An American who lives in Kunming in southern Yunnan province said Thursday that she and her husband stumbled on three shops in the city masquerading as bona fide Apple stores in the city. The 27-year-old blogger, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the setup of the stores was so convincing the employees themselves seemed to think they worked for Apple.
"But some things were just not right. ... Apple never writes 'Apple Store' on its signs — it just puts up the glowing, iconic fruit," she said.
A worker at a fake Apple store in Kunming told The Associated Press that it was an "Apple store" before hanging up. But the three stores are not among the authorized resellers listed on Apple's Web site. Amy Bessette, an Apple spokeswoman, said it had no comment on the Chinese stores.
The proliferation of the fake stores underlines the slow progress China's government is making in countering a culture of rampant piracy.
It also shows the customer interest awaiting Apple in the country. Revenue was up more than six times from a year earlier, to $3.8 billion, in the area comprising China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Timothy Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, during a conference call Tuesday.
"I firmly believe that we're just scratching the surface right now. I think there is an incredible opportunity for Apple there," Cook said.