A recent report from Reuters suggests that Apple may soon open up an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia, coming in 2019.
Apple Store In Saudi Arabia
The article from Reuters states that a government agreement expected to be signed in February of 2018 will concern the opening of an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia. As mentioned above, the store is slated for a 2019 launch. Residents will have to wait a bit to get their hands on the newest iPhone by heading to a brick and mortar Apple Store in Saudi Arabia, but the fact that the plans are being laid out is encouraging.
The decision to launch an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia is the latest in an initiative to drive more business to the country. Previously, efforts by Apple to expand into the Muslim kingdom have been hampered by cultural restrictions from the religious government.
Saudi Arabia as a country is extremely wealthy due to the large reserves of oil, but there’s a finite amount of resources available and the country will have to turn to other means sooner rather than later if they’d like to continue to enjoy a high quality of life. While the depletion of oil is not an immediate concern, it’s in any country’s best interest to be constantly looking forward in an effort to avoid being caught off guard by a sudden economic downturn. The decision to open an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia is significant, because it may serve as a sign that the country is open to the possibility of Western business.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took the position of Saudi Arabia’s prime minister, the country has seen massive steps forward in terms of liberalization. While the country is definitely still largely conservatives, there have been major changes in both civil rights issues and a cultural revamp that mark a stark departure from the previous tight control of Saudi Arabia’s religious leadership.
After coming to power, bin Salman took steps to purge corruption from the government. The country still retains its Muslim roots along with the culture that comes alongside the religion, but advancements such as letting women drive and opening movie theaters are a large leap forward for a country that has subjectively lagged behind in culture and freedom.
The opening of an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia is a big deal, with implications extending beyond the simple growth of the tech company’s reach. By allowing a brick and mortar Apple Store in Saudi Arabia, the government has demonstrated openness to allowing Western luxury a place in the kingdom.
The decision to open an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia came shortly after an announcement of a similar opening in South Korea. South Korea is already a hotbed for technology, but Apple will face a different hurdle in Asia.
While an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia will struggle to break cultural barriers, the South Korean Apple Store will have to deal with heavy competition from Samsung. Opening right next to the Samsung headquarters is a bold power play from Apple, but the company may be more talk than action when it comes to capturing a significant portion of the Korean market. Samsung has deep ties in Korean culture and the vast majority of Korean users are on some sort of Android phone. Breaking through this business barrier may actually prove harder than being part of a cultural revolution with an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia.
By opening two Apple stores in countries that haven’t previously had much of a presence from the company, Apple is showing a commitment to getting their phones into the hands of more users around the world. While the iPhone X has seen great success in the United States, sales in other countries aren’t as high as the company would have liked. It remains to be seen whether the opening of an Apple Store in Saudi Arabia and South Korea will pay off enough to justify the expansion.