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Vendors: Apple Stores Cutting Docking-Speaker Selection

New York – Apple stores will significantly scale back their selection of iPod-docking speaker systems to make room for Apple products and for more hand-on technical support for consumers, said companies that supply docking speakers to Apple.

The change could drive consumers who want iPod speakers to other CE retailers, but the change will hit the bottom line of audio suppliers who sell into Apple’s freestanding brick-and-mortar outlets, which numbered 238 at the end of 2010.

The Apple stores have already begun to scale back, one supplier said. Another supplier said the shift will begin in earnest in the fall.

With the change, Apple will eliminate a section of its stores dedicated to speaker solutions and will mix iPod speakers with other products on display, one supplier said. Apple intends to take the in-store speaker selection down to four to five SKUs, the supplier added.

Many stores have already scaled back their selection, perhaps to about 20 SKUs, said a supplier that doesn’t supply Apple Stores but visits them regularly.

Some or all of the deleted SKUs will be replaced with AirPlay-enabled speaker systems, the docking-speaker suppliers said. One of the suppliers was informed by Apple that stores will display only one docking-speaker product per supplier “to help put more focus on a handful of quality brands.”

The intent is to “help them create a more consistent core product offering from store to store,” he said. “There will also be a specific focus amongst that core group of products on AirPlay.”

The supplier hasn’t heard how many products or manufacturers will be displayed in the stores.

Apple, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first Apple-branded retail stores in the coming week. The company is planning unspecified in-store initiatives to celebrate the anniversary, according to one news report.

On its online store, Apple sells 41 iPod speaker systems and 14 other types of speakers, including Bluetooth wireless speakers and computer speakers. iPod-speaker brands available in Apple’s online store include Altec Lansing, Audyssey, Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Creative Labs, Edifier, Eton, iHome, iLive, JBL, Klipsch, Logitech, Monster, Philips and Philippe Starck.