Olá, Rio! Apple Opens First Store in Brazil

Source: twitter.com/tim_cookApple (NASDAQ:AAPL) opened its first store in Brazil on Saturday as the iPhone maker continues to expand its presence in key emerging markets. Brazil is the fifteenth country to get an Apple Store, and its store is also the first official Apple retail store in Latin America. CEO Tim Cook celebrated the grand opening of the Rio de Janeiro Apple Store with a tweet and a picture that can be seen above. “’Obrigado’ to everyone who visited our new store in Rio de Janeiro today and to our terrific customers across Brazil!” tweeted Cook.

According to Brazil’s Globo newspaper, via the Los Angeles Times, there were approximately 1,700 customers who turned up for the grand opening on Saturday. As usual, Apple provided free t-shirts for many of the store’s first customers.

Although an official retail store will likely help boost Apple’s overall sales in Latin America, the California-based company must still overcome the unique challenges presented by Brazil’s market. Like many other emerging markets, Brazil’s smartphone market is dominated by low- and mid-range devices. According to Gartner data cited by the Los Angeles Times, Apple only had a 9.1 percent share of Brazil’s smartphone market in 2012, in contrast to Samsung’s (SSNLF.PK) 42.4 percent share and LG’s 13.3 percent share.

Despite its relatively small share of the market, Apple has sustained rapid growth in Latin America. As noted by Cook during the company’s fiscal first quarter earnings call, “in Latin America we grew at 76% year over year.”

Apple’s premium iPhone 5S is already more expensive than most smartphones on the market today. However, thanks to high import tariffs, the iPhone 5S being sold in Brazil’s Apple Store will be the most expensive iPhone of any country where Apple has a retail presence. Per Bloomberg, the 16GB unlocked iPhone 5S is priced at 2,799 reais, or about $1,174.

Although many Brazilians may not yet be able to afford Apple’s products, the California-based company may be making a wise move by getting into this market earlier rather than later. According to IDC data, Brazil is already the fifth-largest smartphone market in the world, with 28.9 million units shipped in 2013. Brazil’s smartphone market is expected to reach 66.3 million units by 2017.

“Brazilians have yet to turn in their feature phones for smartphones on a wholesale basis,” noted IDC Brazil Consumer Devices Research Manager Bruno Freitas. “The smartphone tide is turning in Brazil though, as wireless service providers and the government have laid the groundwork for a strong smartphone foundation that mobile phone manufacturers can build upon.”

Here’s how Apple traded on Friday.

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Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)        

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