The running storyline is that the Apple Watch isn’t selling well. But we have little reliable data about its retail performance, and Apple may surprise us with some big numbers when it reports earnings July 21.
Slice Intelligence, which is making a name for itself by tracking Watch sales based on online sales receipts, recently said that those sales fell sharply during June. Several media outlets amped up the story by stating that Watch sales were “off 70 percent” from the high levels of first day preorders on April 10. Of course the much-hyped Watch’s sales were sky-high on the first day of preorders. That’s a good baseline for a comparison. Duh. Regardless, the Slice numbers painted a gloomy picture of the market’s embrace of Apple’s new product. But the numbers don’t paint the whole picture. Slice has been clear that its receipts data doesn’t track international sales and doesn’t track in-store sales.
The in-store sales might not make that much of a difference, since Apple has intentionally driven consumers to buy the new device online. People planning to buy more expensive Edition series Watch may have preferred to buy in-store (so that they could try on the device before laying down the plastic), but that’s probably a small percentage of total sales.
But international sales are an important blind spot in the Slice data. On June 26, Apple began selling the Watch in seven new countries: Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Taiwan. People in those countries have been able to buy the device from Apple’s online store, its retail stores, and select Apple Authorized Resellers for a few weeks now.
No numbers exist on how many Watches have sold in those countries so far. It could be considerable.
Many equities analysts, who do regular “channel” checks of the supply chain, are more bullish on Watch sales. Six weeks ago, Trip Chowdry at Global Equities Research said he believed Apple had already sold 7 million Watches. Chowdry believes that Apple will sell between 40 million and 42 million of these gadgets during the calendar year, and he maintains that many of those sales will take place during the coming holiday season, which he says may be an “Apple Watch Christmas.” Other analysts have projected sales of anywhere from 10 million to 50 million Watches in 2015.
At any rate, Chowdry made his estimates and projections six weeks ago. Since then, Apple Watches have gone on sale in Apple stores and have expanded from the U.S. and U.K. markets to seven others. It’s feasible that people could have ordered 3 million Watches worldwide since June 1.
If so, Apple may be able to announce 10 million in sales when it reports earnings July 21. I’m guessing that if Apple has not reached the 10 million mark, it will be silent on the matter again this quarter.
Analysts are expecting to hear some real sales numbers. And they should be. The product has been on the market long enough now, so for Apple to be silent on sales numbers now would be less than transparent. And it’s not just another product. It’s the first new product of the Cook era, and its acceptance will say a lot about Apple’s future.
So regardless of how many Watches have been sold, whether sales have reached 10 million or not, I’m calling on Apple to report the numbers July 21.
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