Roast Channel with Apple Stuffing

Last Updated Jul 31, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

Christmas Shopping If you weren't sure about your end-of-year holiday dinner plans, not to worry: Apple is serving up enough stuffed channel for everyone. But they only ones happy about it will probably be in Cupertino.

The company has been warning its resellers to place about a month's worth of orders for top selling iPod models and three weeks of MacBook models:

[T]he Cupertino-based company in recent days issued an advisement bulletin to some of its channel partners hinting at a manufacturing ramp down of iPods and certain Mac notebook models, which will result in limited supplies of those products in the coming weeks.
Thoughtful of them. But according to the story, those long used to dealing with Apple think it means that the company will introduce holiday electronics and Macs in early to mid-September.

For those who haven't spent enough time in in retail and distribution, channel stuffing is a practice whereby a vendor, generally trying to make quarterly numbers, forces as much product onto resellers as possible. So long as the product ships within the quarter, the vendor can recognize the revenue, although the retailers see higher inventory costs and decreased their profits for the same time period.

But Apple's angle sounds even more manipulative. They're ramping down current models to make manufacturing available for the new ones, but they don't want to take a hit in their revenue, so they move the old popular stuff to the retailers and then introduce the new models, forcing the retailers to drop their prices to clear out the old, because if they don't, soon it will be an albatross around their necks.

I'd guess that by the time Apple makes the new announcements, the retailers will have had the products longer than the allowable return window, and so end up stuck. What happens if they don't play the game? They could run out of stock when they need it, because Apple has moved on to something else, as it takes months of manufacturing to get ready for a hopefully busy holiday season. Quick, break out the markdown tags.

Christmas shopping image via Flickr user andreasnilsson1976, CC 2.0

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.