Fortune: Apple is America's Best Retailer

The rise of Appleis retail presence is nothing less that meteoric. The first store opened five years ago to industry speculation and doubt, but now Appleis little experiment sets the standard for the retail experience. Fortune reports that Apple is now earning on average US$4,032 per square foot in its 174 stores.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs commented "People havenit been willing to invest this much time and money or engineering in a store before. Itis not important if the customer knows that. They just feel it. They feel somethingis a little different."

The company started its retail project first by bringing the Gapis Mickey Drexler onto the Apple board. Next, Ron Johnson was hired away from the chief merchandising position at Target to run Apple retail. Finally, before building and opening its first store, Apple build full-scale mock-ups in a Cupertino warehouse.

Appleis hard work paid off, and now other retailers are comparing their stores to the standard the Mac and iPod maker has set. Even Saturn talks about its redesigned car showrooms having a contemporary Apple-like feel.

Candace Corlett of WSL Strategic Retail in New York commented "Apple has changed peopleis expectations of what retail should be about. After theyive seen Apple, how do they feel looking at a drugstore or the jeans section in a department store?"

And that mentality keeps drawing customers into the Apple Store long after the pundits predicted its failure.