You have probably already come across it in your web trawling: that fake Apple store in China.

If you haven’t, let’s get you up to speed. Basically, an American blogger living in China notices there’s an Apple store in the small city of Kunming (small in China, but it would be Australia’s largest city). She’s surprised, she doesn’t think Kunming would be the kind of place Apple would bother putting a store, their only other outlets are in Beijing and Shanghai. She realises that in a country famous for making counterfeit bags and electronics, the actual store is a fake too. It claims to be a real Apple store, it only sells genuine Apple products, the employees dress like Apple store workers, but they’re not. it She takes a few pictures of the store, she writes a blog post on it. In three days, the blog gets around a million hits. Pandemonium. People can’t believe it. Westerners holiday in the Orient and bring back five Louis Vuitton bags for five bucks each, but a whole counterfeit store is apparently a step too far. Over the following days, more sightings of fake Apple stores are reported, from Croatia to Columbia, and back to China.

David Iwanow, a Marketing mag blogger and main man behind The Lost Agency, tipped us off about the fakes as the story broke and shared some interesting thoughts on what it meant for the future of Western brands.

“It’s a massive wake up call,” he tells Marketing magazine. “I don’t think businesses and consumers have realised the ramifications of it. China has always been making fake iPods and iPhones, and now they’re replicating the retail experience, and doing it well.”

Iwanow says the impressive bogus Apple store is just the start for a new wave of full retail store counterfeiting.

“China are improving and producing their own versions of our retail stores and consumer goods,” he says, “expect to see fake Country Road stores selling fake Country Road goods. Expect to see fake Sony Central Stores selling fake Sony products.”

Iwanow doesn’t think they’re going to be poor rip-offs, either, imagine if the fakes end up cheaper and better?

“You can get items produced over there, first it was T Shirts, and now it’s electronics, next step is they will make the devices better than Apple,” he says.

“Western brands train people up, start giving them more and more responsibility, and all of a sudden they can make the devices better than the company they work for. A Chinese guy in a computer store made his own iPad 2.”

While our first thoughts reacting to this might be, well when are we going to get these brilliant knockoffs in Australia, don’t get too excited, because we might not even see them. When you’ve got a market that makes up a big chunk of Earth’s population, brands might feel like they can claim world domination without leaving the Chinese borders.

“Chinese technology brands won’t have to expand globally,” Iwanow says. “There are already companies that have bigger customer bases domestically than global companies have worldwide.”

Iwanow thinks Chinese businesses will naturally want to extend their portfolios globally, though, and even had a warning for this particular trade publication.

“China will start replicating online businesses as well,” he says. “The Japanese used to make the devices for Americans, China’s doing the same thing now, just faster. In the future, they’ll be replicating Marketing mag, writing articles in China and offering them to Australian readers. They’ll buy Fairfax and they’ll buy News Corp.”

Iwanow compiled this timeline looking into Chinese takes on Apple products.

2005 Fake iPod Shuffle styled “Top Tangent” sold online
2005 Authentic iPod nano introduced into the world
2007 Fake iPod Nano shows up on eBay
2007 Fake iPhone shows up online
2008 Fake Chinese iPhone C-002 shows up online
2009 Fake Chinese iPhone 3Gs shows up on eBay
2010 Fake Chinese iPhone shows up on Amazon
2011 Chinese man makes own iPad look-a-like
2005 Authentic iPod Shuffle introduced into the world
2005 Fake iPod Shuffle styled “Super Tangent” sold online
2006 Fake iPod Nano style “MP34 Player” sold online
2007 Authentic iPhone introduced into the world
2008 First Apple Store Opens in China
2008 Fake Chinese iPhone A88 shows up online
2010 Fake Chinese iPhone 3G sold online
2011 Fake Chinese iPhone 4 sold online
2011 First fake Apple store in China

What do you think? Will Chinese developers create something better and cheaper than American brands can in the future? Will we see more retail rip offs? Can Apple control replica stores, and when they are as good as the Kunming fakes, would they want to eliminate them? Drop a comment below…

BY Brendan Lawley ON 25 July 2011