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Apple Takes a Bite Out of Retail as Stores Turn 10

Peter Gorenstein

The Apple store turns 10 today and its success has been spectacular, and surprising. Back in 2001 when the first two stores opened in Tysons Corner, Virginia and Glendale, California, it seemed like a crazy and desperate idea.

Critics asked, "why would a technology company like Apple open a brick and mortar store when the future of commerce is moving online?"

"Literally half the store is devoted to solutions because people don't just want to buy personal computers any more. They want to know what they can do with them," was Steve Jobs' answer, in a video presented at MacWorld just days before the first grand opening.

Like so many of his decisions over the last decade Jobs was right.

Today, with its 300 stores across the country, and more than $9 billion in retail sales last year, Apple is arguably the most successful retailer on the planet based on sales per square foot.

According to a recent MacWorld article: Jeweler Tiffany & Company's $2,700 per square foot used to be considered the gold standard, but Apple has surpassed Tiffany, generating more than $4,000 in sales per square foot. By comparison, Best Buy's sales per square foot is about $1,000, and Walmart's is about $400.

In the accompanying clip, The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Daniel Gross discuss how Apple has been able dominate at a time so many other retailers are struggling or have gone out of business, due in part to Apple's iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac and iTunes offerings.

Remember Virgin, Tower, and all those independently owned music stores? You might, but I bet your kids don't. They've been buying music on iTunes and using their iPods for as long as they can remember.

Many suspected electronics giant Best Buy would benefit when its top rival Circuit City went under. That hasn't happened. Best Buy has reported three straight quarters of declining same-store sales, including a 5.5% drop in U.S. stores in the last quarter.

Borders filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this winter but Barnes & Noble isn't likely to see an increase in business, what with Amazon and the iPad and all the tablet copycats popping up.

Meanwhile, direct competitors like Microsoft and Dell have had little success with their retail stores. It's unlikely fans of either will be lining up outside their doors when the next version of Windows is released.