Fake Apple Stores' Close up Shop After Probe by Chinese Officials

Chinese officials have shut down two fake Apple stores in the city of Kunming after launching an investigation into retailers allegedly selling the computer company’s products without proper authorization.

Over the weekend officials inspected 300 stores in the southwestern city of Kunming and discovered five fake stores, all of which were branded as “Apple” stores, according to information from the government and local media reports.

All five of the fake Apple stores were found to be selling genuine Apple products, including iPads and MacBooks, but two of the retailers were shut down for not having official business licenses, according to the reports.

Merchants who have the proper licensing are allowed to sell Apple products, even from a business like the faux Apple store discovered by the American who published several photos of the look-alike stores in her Kunming neighborhood on her blog, BirdAbroad, last week. The American woman had found three fake Apple stores in her neighborhood while an investigation done by the Kunming Trade and Industry Bureau over the weekend dug up two more fake Apple stores in the area.

This main store featured in photos on the BirdAbroad blog is brightly lit, has white walls and the trademark winding staircase in the center of the store. The photos also show wooden tables decked out with what appears to be the latest Apple products. There is also apparently a genius bar.

The unidentified woman’s discovery sparked a new round of head-shaking among Americans who are more than familiar with the bevy of bootleg goods that seem to originate from the Asian nation. Perhaps no one else was more stunned than the folks at Apple, Inc. In recent reports on their third-quarter earnings, company executives cited China for being key to their stellar earnings.

The copycat store in Kunming documented on BirdAbroad, which remains open, looked so much like the real thing that even the store's employees believed they were working for Apple, Inc.

The widespread attention has apparently put a damper on business at the fake Apple stores. Customers have returned to the stores wanting refunds for their possibly fake purchased items, reported Reuters.

“I am sure we will become their authorized reseller in the near future...After all, we invested a lot in this store," a manager for one of the fake Apple stores in Kunming told China's Xinhua news agency.

Apple has four authorized stores in China, located in Beijing and Shanghai, but none in Kunming. The computer retail giant does, however, have 13 authorized resellers in Kunming, according to Reuters.

Based in Cupertino, Calif., Apple has yet to make a statement on the discovery of copycats of its iconic stores.