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The findings are the latest to suggest the Cupertino-based Mac and electronics maker remains better positioned than most to weather the brunt of an ongoing economic crunch that has seen consumers rein in their budgets and put novelty and non-critical purchases on hold for a brighter day.
During the tail end of March and early April, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster and five members of his research team spent 25 hours in Apple retail stores across the country counting how many Macs, iPhones and iPods left the stores in customers' hands. The mix of stores included 7 flagship locations and 18 averaged-sized stores, each of which were surveyed on various days of the week at random times.
Using a weighted average calculation that assumes 8 percent of Apple's retail stores are flagship locations, with the remaining 92 percent being regular stores, Munster concluded that company is currently selling an average of 22 iPhone 3Gs, 28 Macs, and approximately 50 iPods per day through its U.S. retail locations.
For Macs, this compares to an average of 36 Macs per store during the analyst's most recent checks in November 2008 and sales of 20 Macs per store witnessed during a similar survey back in September of 2007. Apple ultimately went on to report sales of 2.52 million Macs during the November 2008 quarter and 2.16 million Macs during the September 2007 quarter, leading Munster to estimate that the company sold about 2.2 million Macs during the recently-ended March quarter.
"We also note that the Street is looking for about 2.1 million Mac units in the March quarter, so our checks imply upside to the Street Mac units as well," he wrote in a report obtained by AppleInsider. "The solid Mac number is likely due to the newly released Mac desktops [announced on March 3rd]."
Meanwhile, sales of 22 iPhones per stores is down from 28 iPhones per store during November, which suggests a 21 percent decline in sales sequentially compared to the Street's view of a 24 percent drop. However, Munster is betting that expanded international availability will help offset some of these domestic declines and is therefore modeling iPhone sales for the March quarter to be relatively flat at 4.4 million units.
"And regardless, our checks are not showing the magnitude of sequential declines the Street is anticipating in March," he added. "In other words, we continue to expect upside to Street iPhone numbers in the March quarter."
For the first time in the history of its Apple store surveys, Piper Jaffray also counted daily iPod sales but didn't report on its findings in detail due to a lack of comparative data from previous rounds of checks, saying only that sales of the digital media players were "slightly more than twice" the volume of iPhone 3G sales.
"This provides a rough guide for iPod units in the quarter, and we believe the iPod number should be in-line with Street estimates of ~10 million units, helped by the [March 11th] launch of the iPod shuffle," Munster wrote.
Piper Jaffray maintains a Buy rating and $180 price target on shares of Apple.