There’s something anomalous about the presence of the world’s largest company in Ireland. Despite the country playing host to thousands of Apple (AAPL) employees and the firm’s largest base outside of the United States, there are no official Apple stores to be found.
Apple’s headquarters for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, opened in 1981, is located in Cork City, south of Ireland, and the technology giant has spent hundreds of millions of dollars expanding its campus there in recent years. So why is its official retail presence non-existent?
There’s no conspiracy, and it’s nothing to do with tax. (Opening retail stores would have no impact on Apple’s humongous tax bill in the country, for instance.)
Apple has slowed down its retail expansion in Europe, instead focusing on another area of the world entirely: Asia. In China alone, it has been aiming to triple its number of stores as part of its efforts to tackle high-population countries with low iPhone penetration. Ireland doesn’t really fit the bill: Dublin, the capital of the country, is the only city with more than one million inhabitants, and Irish users already buy the iPhone in droves. According to StatCounter, more than 40% of Irish phones run the company’s iOS operating system. The country also has an established network of authorised resellers, which can more than cope with demand.
The company does have a store in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. But as it’s part of the UK, where Apple already has several stores, the company would have been able to avoid the administrative hurdles involved in setting up an outlet in an entirely new country, which probably isn’t worth the effort for a country with a population so low that it would only justify one store.