iPad 2 Buyers Can’t Buy Before 5PM at Retailers, Local Stock to be Known by Wednesday

Now that we know that the Apple iPad 2 will be available at Walmart, Target, and Best Buy in addition to Apple Stores on Friday, March 11, some might be wondering whether these retail partners will get a jump on Apple and start selling iPads when they open. We have confirmed that they will not.

Talking to sales managers at our local Best Buy store and at Target’s electronic section, we simply asked if we could come and get one when the store opens. Initially the Best Buy salesman said, “Sure.” He then asked his manager and was scolded with the manager saying, “Absolutely not!” We asked how the sale would work on Friday. The manager told the associate that they did not yet have plans for how to deal with the launch, but, unless they get something from corporate, they would direct people to a line at the customer service counter regardless of when they show up.

At the target store next door, the man behind the electronics counter had to look it up in a notebook. At first he said, “I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t let us sell them as soon as we open.” But after checking the notebook he learned that indeed they could not sell them until 5 PM.

When asked how many they would have on hand, the Best Buy associate had no clue. The target salesman said he would know for sure sometime Wednesday.We were told that we could call back to find out then. No doubt he will be corrected between now and then.

Buying a popular tech item like the iPad 2 in big cities is very different than buying them in smaller towns like Hickory, NC. One year ago when the first iPad was launched our local Best Buy store had a grand total of two people waiting in line when it opened on the day of its launch. At the end of the day buyers can walk in and get one without a wait.

Since the original iPad’s sale was the first time Best Buy partnered with Apple for such a launch, we think buyers were less likely to look there. Also the iPad has gained far more popularity in the 12 months since that day. With no online orders this year is likely going to be more hectic even at small town stores. The nearest Apple Store is about  a 90 minute drive. So, this time around we are expecting the demand to be higher.

Since Apple has a history of giving their partners a limited supply on launch day in comparison to what they will have on hand at their stores, we plan to get there sometime early that afternoon to check things out. We do expect that since the iPad will be launched at five different third-party retailers in our area in addition to the Apple Stores in the larger cities near us, we were likely to be able to get one Friday night. After all is finished it might end up like the “lines” at stores the day Verizon got the iPhone 4.

Chrisbphoto all the people in line for the verizon iphone 448x600

If you’re hoping to snag one of the popular tablets on the first day, what is your strategy since Apple will not be allowing pre-orders and online reservations for in-store pickup? Do you plan to plan to get in a line?