Apple Watch likely won't be in stores until June, as analyst estimates 2.3M global pre-orders

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) does not expect customers to be able to go into an Apple retail store and buy the firm's new Watch until June, according to a memo from the iPhone maker's retail chief.

In a memo to Apple employees first published by 9to5 Mac, Angela Arendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores, wrote that "due to high global interest combined with our initial supply, we are only taking orders online right now. I'll have more updates as we get closer to in-store availability, but we expect this to continue through the month of May."

Pre-orders for the Apple Watch began April 10, and the company quickly sold out if its supply of the wearable gadget, which is shaping up be the world's first blockbuster smart watch. Apple had initially said the Watch would be available for purchase in stores on April 24, but that no longer appears to be the case. Customers who pre-ordered the Watch will start receiving deliveries next April 24 though, according to the memo.

Apple declined to comment on the memo or the 9to5 Mac report, according to Bloomberg.

"It's important to remember that Apple Watch is not just a new product but an entirely new category for us," Arendts noted in the memo. "There's never been anything quite like it. To deliver the kind of service our customers have come to expect--and that we expect from ourselves--we designed a completely new approach. That's why, for the first time, we are previewing a new product in our stores before it has started shipping." 

Arendts noted that the Apple Watch is the company's "most personal product yet, with multiple case and band options because it's an object of self-expression. Given the high interest and initial supply at launch, we will be able to get customers the model they want earlier and faster by taking orders online."

Apple actively tried to prevent customers waiting in lines at its stores for the watch, but Arendts said that will not necessarily continue for future products such as new iPhones. "I know this is a different experience for our customers, and a change for you as well," she wrote to Apple's retail employees. "Are we going to launch every product this way from now on? No. We all love those blockbuster Apple product launch days--and there will be many more to come."

It's still unclear how many Apple Watches the company has sold at this point or plans to ship. Slice Intelligence, a firm that tracks online ordering, estimated that 957,000 people in the U.S. pre-ordered an Apple Watch last week. The company said its preliminary data was gathered from 9,080 people who did pre-order an Apple Watch in the United States. That sample came from around 2 million people who use Slice, which is a cross-platform mobile app that tracks online purchases from when customers buy products to when they are delivered.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a research note that Apple likely took global pre-orders of over 2.3 million units for the watch. "We estimate production of Apple Watch around 2.3mn units in March-May," Kuo wrote. "Mass production of Apple Watch began in March and will likely reach 2.3mn by end of May. Considering that most consumers who preordered will not get the device until June, we estimate global preorders of over 2.3mn units, with Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition representing a respective order allocation of 85%, 15% and less than 1%."

By comparison, research firm Canalys reported in February that around 720,000 smart watches running Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android Wear platform were shipped in 2014, or just 15.6 percent of the 4.6 million shipments in the overall smart band market.

As The Verge notes, when Apple released the first iPad in 2010 it sold 300,000 units globally in its first day and reached 1 million sales in 28 days. In 2007 Apple sold 270,000 units of the first iPhone in the U.S. in the first 30 hours, and hit 1 million sales in 74 days.

For more:
- see this 9to5 Mac article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

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