Apple To Launch Wave Of New Retail Stores

On Thursday, Reuters reported that more than half of Apple's planned stores will be outside of the U.S, including a pair of locations in Shanghai, China, as well as new stores in London and Paris.

Given the success Apple has had since opening its first U.S. store in 2001, its move to further its international expansion makes sense. Apple stores had nearly 46 million visitors during Apple's September quarter, and pulled in $1.87 billion in revenue, a 9 percent rise that's all the more impressive given the dismal consumer spending climate.

Apple doesn't break out revenue by location, but its Fifth Avenue store in New York City, a 10,000-square-foot underground location that features a distinctive glass cube design and is open 24 hours a day, is believed to have annual sales in the neighborhood of $350 million.

Apple stores have been so successful in building buzz around its products that Microsoft has decided to get into the game. Last month, Microsoft opened its first two retail stores, in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Mission Viejo, Calif., both of which bear numerous similarities to Apple stores.

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But given the continued success of Apple's strategy of putting high margins before market share -- Apple shares are once again trading north of $200 per share -- Microsoft will have to do more than just emulate the design and experience of Apple stores to make them places that people can't resist visiting -- even when they don't have any money to spend.