Apple, as Watch rollout looms, emphasises online ordering

Apple store employees will tell customers interested in the Apple Watch to purchase the device online

Apple is looking to eliminate the long lines that form outside its retail stores on product launch days.

"The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers," according to a memo from Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior vice president of retail and online stores, that was obtained by Business Insider.

The memo instructs Apple's retail employees to encourage customers interested in either the Apple Watch or new MacBook to order the products online instead of from the stores.

"The Apple Store app and our online store make it much easier to purchase Apple Watch and the new MacBook. Customers will know exactly when and where their product arrives," the memo said. "This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen."

Long lines outside of Apple stores are common whenever a new product from the company goes on sale. People are known to line up for hours or even days before the latest iPhone model goes on sale, for example.

Inventory issues have complicated previous Apple product launches, most recently with the iPhone 6, which went on sale in September. Apple struggled to nail down what the demand for the smartphone would be, leading to shortages. Apple told some customers who pre-ordered the iPhone that they would receive the device in October instead of September. CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the supply issues surrounding the iPhone 6 in the company's fourth quarter earnings call.

"Today, demand is far outstripping supply. It's unclear, looking at the data, when supply will catch up with demand," he said.

The memo implies that Apple isn't keen on product shortages and sees online sales as a way to prevent customers from leaving its stores empty-handed. Store employees should tell customers that more products are available online and show them the ordering process, the memo said.

Apple didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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