[Update: The London Times has confirmed this story in its Friday edition. - Editor]
Apple Computer has signed a long-term lease to open its first retail flagship store in Europe to be located in downtown London, The Mac Observer has learned.
Highly reliable sources have confirmed the 20,000 square foot store will be located in the center of Londonis retail district on Regent Street and will open its doors by Christmas. The new store will be part of a new retail development near Piccadilly Circus, which is considered by many as the epicenter of the cityis shopping mecca. The new development will include restaurants, shops, corporate offices and an existing hotel, which will be refurbished.
The multi-year lease will cost Apple US$2.8 million a year in rent, sources revealed, and was orchestrated by the real estate firm Crown Estate,, which owns a substantial amount of real estate property in central London.
Apple has five other flagship stores - one each in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo and a store to open later this year in San Francisco.
In comparison, Appleis largest store is in Chicago on North Michigan Avenue at 24,000 square feet in size. The Tokyo location is 20,000 square feet and its first flagship store in New York in the SoHo district stands in at 15,000 square feet.
The New York Post reported in December that Apple was "negotiating a 21,000-square-foot lease for the GM Buildingis underground concourse, for the computer makeris second store in Manhattan." Real estate experts predicted the rent for the second store would likely be in the US$3 million to US$4 million range.
In a recent story on Appleis improving market share in Great Britain, IDC research analyst Ian Gibbs told The Mac Observer the addition of a retail store in London could do nothing but help Appleis exposure. "I think itis only a matter of time before they open a store in the London area and I think it will help them to grow exposure. A trendy Apple store in a trendy city like London will be a big hit and they know it. Now, would it make a big difference in market share? Thatis tough to say, but I think it would be a benefit."
An Apple spokesperson was not immediately available for comment for this report.