Apple’s international retail store initiative on track

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Apple retail store analyst Gary Allen summarizes the latest news on Apple’s international store initiative.

I can only get one answer from my Magic 8 Ball on the question of Apple’s push to open more international retail stores: "You may rely on it."

Almost a year ago various sources began confirming Apple retail store on the Champs Elysées in Paris, one of the most famous and visible shopping districts in the world. And the word is that a store has been in the works almost from the beginning. The only holdup, as with San Francisco, is finding the absolutely perfect location for the store and negotiating a long-term lease.

Apple is on the verge of opening a retail store on trendy Regent Street in London, joining neighbors Laura Ashley, L'Occitane, The Disney Store, Hugo Boss, Gap and Niketown. Apple’s store will be one of five retail tenants in a building dating to 1898, along with apartments and offices on the upper floors. The store is scheduled for an Oct.–Nov. grand opening, in time for the important holiday shopping season. It will feature a glass staircase and, according to Sr. VP Retail Ron Johnson, some other interesting architectural details.

Now Apple is apparently putting a retail store support organization into place at its Benelux headquarters in Bunnik (The Netherlands). The company is advertising for two Retail Product Planner positions, and a Retail Fulfillment & Logistics Manager to be based in the town, southeast of Amsterdam. The positions mirror those based in Sacramento (Calif.), and will be responsible for, "planning and fulfillment of product to meet demand at the Apple Retail Stores." Other sources confirm that these positions are indeed being positioned for Apple’s entrée into more European markets, possibly to include Amsterdam, Rome, Scandinavia and Spain.

And 5,000 miles away in China, Apple is analyzing the business model of opening a retail store in a Communist country. Writing in an analysis of Apple’s stock, Merrill Lynch first vice president Steven Milunovich said he and other analysts met with Apple’s Ron Johnson to discuss the company’s financial performance. According to Milunovich, he was told a China store is "being considered." It’s not clear which cities Apple is considering, but the luxury fashion chain Gucci — which has unfailing accuracy in locating its outlets — has retail stores in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

Milunovich said he also learned that Canada-based Apple stores are "likely." In fact, several sources and Web sites have already confirmed Apple’s investigations into leases at two malls in Toronto.

One international location that seems oh-so-obvious has so far been silent — Australia. The country boasts 456 computers per 1,000 persons, not far behind the United States with 554 per 1,000 persons. There are already several independent resellers in Australia operating Apple Centres that fuel the interest in Apple and Macintosh gear. But so far, my Magic 8 Ball says, "Cannot predict now."

Gary Allen is the creator and author of ifo Apple Store, which provides close watch of Apple's retail initiative. When Gary isn't busy publishing news and information on Apple's latest retail stores, he finds himself hanging out at one.