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Apple plans massive retail expansion for 2011

On the heels of a record breaking quarter, Apple's retail operations are set to dramatically expand over the next fiscal year, with 40 to 50 new locations slated to open worldwide.

The company currently operates 317 stores, 84 of which are outside the US. This quarter, Apple's retail operations brought in $3.57 billion in revenue, and increase of 75% over the previous year.

The stores also sold 874,000 Macs, up 30%. The company also reiterated that its stores continue to sell about half of those computers to customers new to the Mac. Apple reported a 52% increase in revenue per store, and a 62% increase in visitors, with a record number of 74.4 million customers entering retail locations.

After an expansion slowdown during the recession, Apple opened 24 new retail stores during the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010, 16 of which were overseas. This included flashy new flagship locations in Beijing, Shanghai, London and Paris.

The company noted that its four new stores in China are the highest trafficked in the world and among the highest performing. Apple also added Spain as its eleventh country with retail stores, after opening new locations in Barcelona and Madrid.

Apple's 2011 fiscal year, which began this month, will be "a great opportunity to continue growth," chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said, with 40 to 50 new stores planned (half of which will be outside the US) and a new wave of replacements planned for the company's existing, aging stores in the US.

Apple's retail program began in the US in May 2001 (expanding to 231 stores), then expanded to Japan in 2003 (now 7), the UK in 2004 (now 28 locations), followed by retail locations in Canada in 2005 (currently 18). In 2007 Apple expanded into Italy (which now has 4 stores), with locations in Australia (now 9), China (now 4), Switzerland (now 3) and Germany (now 4) all initially opening in 2008. The first store in France opened in 2009 (there's now 5), and Spain's two stores opened this year.