Some Hong Kong vendors cash in on iPad 2 before launch

By Kelvin Soh

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Apple may have envisioned its iPad being sold in futuristic wood-paneled shops in ritzy shopping districts, but in Hong Kong you’re more likely to find them stacked up next to posters of bikini-clad models and burned cigarette butts.

Enterprising Chinese businessmen have already found a way to cash in on Apple’s iPad 2 before its official April launch in Hong Kong and Singapore, selling the gadget for a healthy mark-up and pocketing the difference.

Few customers looking at the iPad at the shopping mall located in the territory’s local night life district seemed disturbed by the price tag, which goes to as high as HK$15,000 ($2,000) for the top-end 64-gigabyte model, about 250 percent higher than prices in the United States.

“Those who want to buy it now are not going to look at the price,” said the owner of a shop who gave his name as Eddie, as he stood in front of rows of iPads and a sticker of a Victoria Secrets lingerie model plastered on his laptop.

“Many of our customers are actually from mainland China who want to impress their girlfriends or give it to business associates, and will buy 10 of them at a go.”

The iPad 2, a thinner and faster version of the original tablet PC that features two cameras, was introduced in the United States on March 11 and some analysts forecast that some 1 million of the new gadget may have been sold in the first weekend of its launch.

Eddie said his iPad 2 came from sources in the United States who paid people to stand in line at shops on the day of the launch and had them shipped to Asia immediately, which all added to the cost of the machine.

Cheaper knock-offs running on Microsoft’s Windows or other Chinese software were also available, but that had received little interest from consumers so far, he said.

“If I want a fake iPad I can probably get those in China,” said Zhou Wen, who said she is a tourist from Beijing on vacation in Hong Kong. “The prices of the iPad here are lower than back on the mainland, so many of my friends have asked me to help them get one too.”

Consumers in China unable to make the trip across the border to Hong Kong are likely to turn to Taobao, the eBay equivalent popular in China that is owned by the country’s largest e-commerce firm Alibaba Group.

A search on the Taobao for iPad 2 turned up over 5,500 hits, selling everything from the gadget itself to ‘Hello Kitty’ stickers and covers designed for the tablet PC.

Many of the enterprising online merchants were also happy to offer services such as credit-card payment, a seven-day money-back guarantee and a 30-day warranty, all included into the device’s price.

“We’ve already sold plenty of iPads and have many happy customers,” said an online seller with the username Dulala in an email. “This is the real thing.” ($1 = 7.795 Hong Kong Dollars)

(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Some Hong Kong vendors cash in on iPad 2 before launch