Best Buy stores nationwide are reportedly sold out of the iPhone 4S, raising concerns over Apple’s ability to meet high demand for the device.
In a research note to clients published Monday, R.W. Baird analyst William Power said the device is sold out or in short supply at most retail outlets, adding sales representatives don’t know when they will be able to replenish them.
According to Power, Best Buy is considered a “litmus test” for availability of Apple’s devices because it is typically one of the last locations, after Apple Stores and carriers, to “have its supply of devices normalize.” A pervasive Best Buy sellout may indicate Apple’s supply is falling short of high 4S demand.
“The iPhone 4S was sold out at the vast majority of stores that we checked with, with many stores notifying customers of device shortages in their automatic greeting,” Power said.
Apple decided to sell the iPhone 4S in its retail stores by reservation only in an effort to manage demand and cut down on long lines and confusion. This strategy worked for a time during the chaotic post-launch period, but empty shelves at Best Buy and other locations now hint that more and more customers may walk away empty-handed as desire for the device shows no sign of slowing down.
The 4S launched to great anticipation, and Apple received more than one million pre-orders on its first day of availability in early October.
Despite well-publicized issues such as a yellow tint on some screens and connection problems with the device’s voice-activated virtual assistant, Siri, the 4S has been on fire since its debut. It has broken sales records for carriers AT&T and Sprint, prompting the latter to report its best sales day in company history, thanks to the popular smartphone.
Customers currently must wait one to two weeks before they receive the 4S phones they purchased online from Apple, 21-28 days for devices bought at an AT&T store, and 11-18 days for handsets from Verizon. Best Buy sales reps have not indicated when the 4S will be back in stores, suggesting new shipments expected will likely be available to customers by reservation only.
In the meantime, Apple’s historic launch rolls on. The 4S became available in an additional 22 countries last week, and empty spots on store shelves here in the U.S. may point to a supply shortfall that may take a toll on Apple’s sales as more competing devices become available in the next few weeks.
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