Apple reseller Next Byte has ditched plans to open a branch at Westfield Mall in eastern Sydney's Bondi Junction.
The new store had been slated to open early this year but negotiations stalled late in 2003, reportedly due to Westfield's planning strictures.
Adam Steinhardt, MD at Next Byte, said the Apple reseller had decided not to proceed 'two or three' weeks ago for several reasons.
'We are not going ahead with it,' he said. 'It had been delayed but we were looking at it and Apple was unable to control its reseller channel.'
Steinhardt said that Apple had failed to stop other resellers opening up in Bondi Junction. At least one competitor was also operating nearby - potentially queering the market for any new Next Byte store, he said.
'We had competitors that we weren't aware of in Bondi and that left a sour taste in our mouths,' Steinhardt said.
Previously, it had been thought that the nearest competitor was Apple Centre Taylor Square, in Darlinghurst. A Bondi Junction store in Westfield would have thus potentially cracked open the eastern beaches for Steinhardt and fellow Next Byte directors Tim Kleemann and Crawford Giles.
'Apple doesn't really work with total rhyme or reason where their partners and their shops are concerned, so there's always a risk,' Steinhardt said. 'They need to be careful.'
It was true Westfield was strict, he said, but their tight planning controls had proved very successful for them so there was little issue in principle with that. Nevertheless, such controls made it more difficult for smaller, niche retailers to score a spot and work it effectively, he said.
'I'm a very happy Westfield shareholder,' Steinhardt said. 'But we had to question how much incremental business [Bondi Junction] would bring.'
Next Byte, after a rapid growth phase, has 16 stores across Australia, including an Enterprise Technologies service centre in Sydney's Lane Cove and the Melbourne NBPC outlet specialising in PC sales.
'We are entering a consolidation phase now,' Steinhardt said. 'We've spent nine years building the car and polishing it up and now we'll take it for a drive, which we haven't really done.'
That said, January had been busier than expected for Next Byte and the company had added 10 staff in the past two months. The company was still growing, even if it had slowed its store-opening program, Steinhardt said.
He would not disclose revenue.
Martha Raupp, a spokeswoman for Apple Australia, said she would have thought it was 'unusual' for Apple to restrict resellers from opening in areas where competitors already operated. 'Surely, that's up to the reseller, to do all the numbers and so on?' she asked.
However, Raupp said 'a number' of other Apple resellers were interested in the Bondi Junction site and Apple was particularly seeking partners to open in high-traffic zones, such as Westfield Mall.