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Europe to gain several \'mini\' Apple retail stores

Apple Computer will extend its "mini" retail store strategy into Europe next year, highly reliable sources tell AppleInsider.

Although the company has yet to announce such plans, tipsters claim that approximately 5 Apple "mini" stores are slated to begin appearing throughout the United Kingdom in 2005. And at least one of the stores is scheduled to touch down in a university area of Scotland.

Speaking under anonymity, sources also confirmed that Apple will open a larger-size retail store in Manchester, England during 2005. The store will be the fourth full-sized retail store to open in the UK, joining an already established flagship in London and two forthcoming locations, one in Birmingham and another in Kent.

Introduced a little over a month ago, the company's fledgling mini store strategy aims to place retail outlets in a variety of new and interesting locations not suitable for a full-sized store. Averaging roughly 750-square-feet—half the size of Apple’s smallest full-sized location—the stores sport an all-new design consisting of stainless steel walls and seamless white floors and ceilings.

To date, Apple's mini stores appear only in shopping malls, but may soon begin popping up in airports and near international rail stations. And while it may be too early for outsiders to accurately assess the performance of these smaller retail stores, internal plans to expand the strategy overseas presents a clear indication of prosperity.

In an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, Apple noted that net sales from its retail segment grew 91% to $1.2 billion year-over-year. The company attributes the growth to an increase in total stores from 65 in 2003 to 86 at the end of 2004, including a 36% year-over-year increase in average revenue per store.