Apple removes other brand audio products from its store shelves

Photo: RetailWire
Oct 07, 2020
George Anderson

Apple is pulling earphones and speakers made by Bose, Logitech, Sonos and Ultimate Ears to free up needed shelf space for new audio products it plans to introduce.

Bose and Ultimate Ears each confirmed that their products will no longer be sold by Apple.

Bloomberg reports that Apple is moving closer to rolling out new over-the-ear headphones and a smaller version of its HomePod voice-activated speaker. At present, Apple currently sells its AirPods and AirPods Pro wireless earbuds as well as its HomePod and Beats Pill+ speaker.

In April, Bloomberg reported that Apple was moving closer to debuting at least two high-end over-the-ear headphones. A premium version of the new headphones would feature “leather-like fabrics” and a fitness version would use “lighter, breathable materials.”

Prototypes of the new headphones were said to feature a retro look and contain interchangeable ear pads and headbands enabling users to customize the devices to their own tastes, similar to what the tech giant has done with its Apple Watch line. A recently leaked video on Twitter is purported by a user named Fudge to show the new “sports” version of the headphones.

Apple has announced a new product launch on October 13, although reports indicate it is likely to introduce the iPhone 12 at that time. The company has typically used the month of September to introduce iPhones in past years but didn’t do so last month when it debuted the new Apple Watch Series 6, iPad Air and next-gen iPad.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Apple is wise removing all rival products from its store shelves, or would it be smarter to reduce, not eliminate, space for those items? Do you think that Apple needs to broaden its product coverage across computing and related products to continue competing with competitors such as and Google?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Good idea or bad idea, I don't think any manufacturer has any illusions about whether they can rely on Apple as a channel."
"Well, it’s clearly a move to choke competition. It remains to be seen if ordering online will mute their brick-and-mortar move."
"Seeing non-Apple merchandise in Apple stores has always seemed weird to me. It’s like shopping at Tiffany and finding a Kay Jewelers chocolate diamond mixed in. …Huh?"

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Apple removes other brand audio products from its store shelves"

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Mark Ryski

Apple is free to select whatever products it wishes to feature in its stores, and making room for their own devices is perfectly reasonable. Unlike Amazon which promotes a third-party marketplace, but then uses the insights to create competitive offerings, Apple is merely focusing on Apple. Apple has made thoughtful product line extensions over the years and I believe that they have a good idea of where they want to go – for Apple it’s not a race to be all to everyone so they don’t have the same pressure to continue to expand the same way the others do.

David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
6 months 28 days ago

Given that Apple plans to introduce products that will directly compete with these brands, it makes sense for Apple to focus on its own products. Apple will temporarily see a small dip in sales from the loss of sales of the other brands until they have traction on the newly introduced Apple products. Broadening its product line makes sense as Apple had a loyal fan base that will gravitate to its new products as they trust the quality of the brand. Apple has more expertise in electronics that Amazon and Google and should continue to expand its product line where it makes sense.

Suresh Chaganti

I am not an Apple enthusiast, but I was surprised to discover that they have been selling non-Apple products in their stores. It is completely expected and appropriate to have only their products. From a business standpoint, I don’t believe Apple will lose much if any in sales as the shelf space and mindshare will be taken over by their own products. From a competition point of view, neither Amazon nor Google seriously compete in this space. They will take away share from Bose etc. and even make the category much bigger.

Neil Saunders

Many of the brands were introduced at a time when Apple was not so strong in peripherals and accessories. However now that Apple has developed a lot of its own solutions it makes sense that they want to remove competing products. The Apple stores have always been a showcase for Apple products so I don’t see this move as strange. I also don’t see it having an impact on footfall into Apple stores, which remain popular mostly because of the devices that are sold. Sure some shoppers may lament the loss of other brands, but there are plenty of other retailers that will still stock and sell them.

Nikki Baird

One thing any manufacturer operating in the Apple ecosystem knows: they don’t care about the ecosystem around their products. Just ask case manufacturers, which is even a place where you would think Apple would want to encourage an ecosystem. Half the time, Apple won’t even give them a heads up as to where buttons or switches move (or disappear) until the product is in the market, leaving those manufacturers scrambling to keep up.

Good idea or bad idea, I don’t think any manufacturer has any illusions about whether they can rely on Apple as a channel. It’s a company that is built on a tightly integrated offering that they provide in its entirety.

Ray Riley

Apple has had third-party products in its store in nearly all categories outside of desktop, phone, and laptop for years, and clearly they identified in the audio category what was working and what wasn’t – mind you at full MSRP. They now have an opportunity to introduce product lines reflective of that data that are likely better in quality and higher in margin within their coveted four-wall physical environments.

Liz Crawford

Well, it’s clearly a move to choke competition. It remains to be seen if ordering online will mute their brick-and-mortar move.

Raj B. Shroff

I think it makes sense for Apple to remove all rival products. If sales of the competitive products were significant enough they wouldn’t be removing them. Specialty stores such as Vans, Crocs, etc don’t carry other brands.

Apple shouldn’t emulate Amazon or Google with regard to computing and related products.

Art Suriano

Apple wants and insists on control, and that goes with the products they sell as well. Apple has been branching out in audio for the last few years and their products are quite good. I recently purchased two pairs of the Apple Buds and the large over-the-ear Beats headphones. They’re excellent and as good as anything else I’ve used. So why have competition in their stores? I can see their point. Most Apple customers are loyal to Apple products, so I see this as a profitable business decision. The few customers who purchased non-Apple products in the Apple stores do not make up for the vast number of loyal Apple customers who believe in “ALL” Apple. Sorry folks, I’m one of them — and I have no complaints.

Georganne Bender

Typically the reason I make a trip to the Apple store is to purchase Apple products. I only buy non-Apple brands when something I want is not made by by them. I feel comfortable buying the product merchandised in Apple stores because those products are recommended by the store.

Keeping these other brands makes sense when Apple cannot supply what customers want, and if the products are selling well. But if Apple’s goal is to make the stores 100 percent branded then those products need to go.

Richard Hernandez

As with anything else that Apple does, they offer an assortment of competitive products until they have developed an option and then the competition is quietly discontinued. I have been an Apple person since he beginning and have seen the evolution of their products including how they merchandised their early Apple retail stores. It will always be all Apple all the time and people who are in that ecosystem have come to expect it (there is always method to madness).

Mohamed Amer

Apple stores are a controlled environment of products and services that reflect the brand’s value and image. Apple enthusiasts seek the stores because of the focus on everything Apple. Timed with the expected new iPhone 12 and rumored high-end over-the-ear headphones (Airpods Studio), removing other brands’ audio products makes sense for Apple and their in-store customers.

Gene Detroyer

I agree with Apple’s move for most product categories. But audio products are a very personal decision. The most dedicated Apple user might still prefer the Sonos or Bose sounds. Go one step farther, use the competition to compare with your new product. Let the customer hear the difference. Of course that doesn’t work if your product is inferior.

Shep Hyken

My first response was, “Hmmm — Those products are nice to pair with Apple products.” Then I thought, “But this is Apple!” The ancillary products, such as noise-canceling earbuds, compete with the best. The more of their own products which consumers confidently purchase, the better. The Apple store looks like it may become exclusively Apple.

Gary Sankary

Apple has such a strong brand, I really don’t see any downside for this strategy. Their customers have come to expect that products with the Apple logo are high quality and they work together well. Now Apple has the opportunity to improve margins in a hot category by extending their brand. Given the loyalty their customers have for Apple products this is a slam dunk.
It’s important to remember this applies to Apple stores only. People who own an iPhone but want a Bose headset to listen to it with can still find that product.

Chuck Palmer

Seeing non-Apple merchandise in Apple stores has always seemed weird to me. It’s like shopping at Tiffany and finding a Kay Jewelers chocolate diamond mixed in. …Huh?

I expect all those accessories are a mere convenience for customers. It’s not like they need the add-on sales. I’ve always expected the non-Apple assortments to be curated through an Apple lens, but I’ve been mostly disappointed by their merchandising.

If they asked me–I should check my spam folders, maybe they have–I would say remove the clutter of all that extra stuff and keep the focus on the coveted products they are known for.

I would love to see what their design folks would do with bags and cases and desktop accessories.

Dan Frechtling

From a commercial standpoint, creating shelf space to debut new Apple products makes complete sense. Now that these products are competitive on features and functions with Bose, Sonos, and the like, the consumer will shrug it off.

But the US House has accused Apple of controlling access to markets, imposing excessive fees (such as the 30% commission in the App Store), requiring oppressive contract terms, and using its brand position to maintain market power by blocking rival products. The decision to completely eliminate–not reduce–space in-store may provide more fodder to regulators, even if it’s a stretch to declare Apple a monopoly.

Ricardo Belmar

Apple’s stores (online and physical) are not a marketplace. They’re intended to sell Apple products, and in categories where Apple does not make a product, but the category is complementary, they will sell 3rd party products. They’ll also specify how those products are to be merchandised and define specific requirements for those products’ packaging. If Apple is ready to introduce new audio products, it makes sense they would pull competing 3rd party products. Apple stores aren’t a destination for competing products for most consumers. As Apple broadens the categories for accessories they produce, we can expect to see this happen again and again, and manufacturers, frankly, expect this from Apple based on their history.

I don’t see Apple trying to become an Amazon marketplace, and Google isn’t known for these product categories Apple is expanding into, so I don’t see any issues for Apple in this area.

"Good idea or bad idea, I don't think any manufacturer has any illusions about whether they can rely on Apple as a channel."
"Well, it’s clearly a move to choke competition. It remains to be seen if ordering online will mute their brick-and-mortar move."
"Seeing non-Apple merchandise in Apple stores has always seemed weird to me. It’s like shopping at Tiffany and finding a Kay Jewelers chocolate diamond mixed in. …Huh?"

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