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IPhone Pro models scarce in stores this holiday - Best Buy

FILE PHOTO: The Apple iPhone 14 Pro is seen at the Apple Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan, New York City

By Uday Sampath Kumar and Hilary Russ

(Reuters) -High-end iPhones will be in short supply at stores this holiday season, Best Buy Co Inc said on Tuesday, following a warning from Apple Inc this month that China's zero-COVID policy was squeezing production at a key factory.

The supply issues are expected to significantly hurt the premium iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models, which start at nearly $1,000.

"One of the places where we're seeing a bit of (inventory) pressure is in those higher-end iconic iPhone devices," Best Buy boss Corie Barry said on a media call.

Analysts have flagged that inventory of iPhones at Apple stores around the Black Friday shopping season were down from a year earlier, and it was taking longer to replenish stocks.

IPhones draw customers to Best Buy stores, especially during the holiday season, and often trigger impulse buying, and Apple fans waiting for the latest devices could push out sales into the next quarter.

A Best Buy store in Bronx, New York, that Reuters visited did not have any iPhone Pro models available. A store supervisor, Michael Phillips, said it takes at least two weeks for models to reach after orders are placed.

"We lose a lot of customers because of that," Phillips said. For people who want the Pro Max, "you're not going to settle for something that doesn't have the specs you want."

Best Buy did not respond to a request for comment on this.

Demand for high-end smartphones has helped Apple emerge relatively unscathed even as consumers cut spending amid surging inflation and interest rates.

"Across consumers, we can also see that savings are being drawn down and credit usage is going up," Barry said. "Value clearly matters to everyone."

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives estimates 8 million iPhone 14 units will be sold over the Black Friday weekend, about 2 million fewer than iPhone 13s a year ago, as many Apple stores have 25% fewer iPhones in their inventories than a year earlier.

"IPhone sales may get pushed to the March quarter and out of the December period," Thomas Forte, analyst at D.A. Davidson said.

Earlier this month, Apple warned of delays in shipments of its flagship product following a significant production cut at Foxconn's Zhengzhou plant due to China's strict COVID-19 policy.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Best Buy's Barry said the company had factored the expected loss in sales due to the shortage of the premium iPhones into its holiday quarter forecast.

Still, Best Buy on Tuesday forecast a smaller drop in annual sales than it had previously estimated.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Hilary Russ in New York; additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm, and Siddharth Cavale and Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Sayantani Ghosh)