With Stores in 16 Countries, Where Does Apple Go Next?

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has stores in 16 countries. Presumably, the locations have been picked intelligently and methodically, which means its current presence in these nations must not warrant rapid expansion. If Apple’s retail operations are to grow significantly, their footprint will need to grow beyond the countries where they are currently located.

Website 9to5Mac has speculated that new Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts will open stores in China, Italy and the United States over the course of the next year. Four of these will be in the People’s Republic, perhaps only one in Italy, and a half-dozen in the United States. It is the sort of careful growth that shows Apple has not found large new markets for its retail operations.

Apple currently has stores in the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Turkey, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Germany.

Conspicuously, some of the world’s largest countries by population are absent from the list. Among these are India, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and the biggest countries in Africa. Apple does sell iPhones in these countries, along with several others, which include Malaysia, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam, according to Forbes.

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Apple may have decided that sales through its carrier partners in many of the countries where it does not have retail locations is a better means to reach consumers. However, it has to cede all chance of allowing the consumers to experience Apple products, which include Macs and iPads, as Apple management would like to display them with help of its own employees. This experience has been important in markets, particularly in the United States, where people can test products with a level of expert aid and education.

As Ahrendts looks at the world map, she has a challenge. So far, all available evidence points to Apple’s retail operations being a wild success. Apple management may have judged this is not as likely in the next country where it might open a store, or the next. Apple may have run out of countries where its normal retail model will work.