It appears, after nearly two years of speculation, that Apple Computer will open their own retail stores. According to the San Jose Mercury, the first such retail store is currently under contstruction a short way from Stebe Jobsi home in Palo Alto, California.
Currently, Apple sells their systems through major 3rd party retail chains, such as CompUSA and Sears. That strategy appears to be changing. Acccording to the Mercury:
Apple Computer Inc. is venturing into the retail arena with its very own Apple shops, selecting downtown Palo Alto, just a couple of miles from Jobsi home, as the start. The new store will sell Apple computers and related products.
The 6,500-square-foot retail business, being built as a prototype for future Apple stores, will set up shop at University and Kipling avenues. It may stay open until 11 p.m. for the downtown late-night crowd, and feature product demonstrations where the public can test-drive the latest iMac before lugging it home.
Gateway, with their national line of Gateway Country Storeis, has seen their sales revitalized due to the retail outlets. The Mercury reports that Gatewayis sales have increased by over US$600 million over the last year, with much of the credit going to the retail store front presense.
Borrowing another line from Gateway, the Apple retail store is expected to be tightly linked to the Apple Store online. Gateway Country typically has a somewhat limited selection of on-hand stock, but can typically rush process an order placed to their online store from within the retail stores. One can expect Apple to adopt a similar strategy.
After some rocky times with CompUSA, and the Apple Store Within A Store concept, rumors began to appear suggesting that Apple was indeed going to build their own line of retail stores, while most of the rumors had those stores appearing in major markets across the country. While there is no word as to whether or not Apple plans to build more stores, it does seem that they are at least preparing to test the friendly waters of Silicon Valley.
At the time of this writing, Apple representatives had not responded to The Mac Observeris request for information regarding the forthcoming retail store.
You can read the full article at the San Jose Mercury web site.