Horace Dediu, who has a reputation as one of the most prescient and thoughtful tech industry analysts working today, recently examined some metrics about Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) retail stores on his Asymco website. The analyst noted that the number of visitors to Apple Stores increased to 395 million in fiscal 2013 from 372 million in fiscal 2012. As Dediu points out, the total increase in the number of Apple Store visitors is approximately equal to the population of Australia.
However, this doesn’t necessarily reflect an increase in the number of visitors per Apple Store. Instead, the increase in the total number of visitors is more likely due to the increase in the total number of Apple Stores. As noted by Dediu, Apple opened 21 new stores in 2013. Meanwhile, the average number of visitors per store per quarter has remained fairly steady, at about 240,000 since mid-2010.
But between 2007 and mid-2010, Apple Stores only averaged about 160,000 visitors per store per quarter. So what caused this “quantum leap,” as Dediu calls it, in Apple Store traffic? After eliminating store redesigns or staffing changes as possible causes, the analyst concludes that this traffic increase was most likely caused by the launch of the iPad in April 2010.
Dediu writes: “The iPad is something that needs to be discovered with a retail experience. You can sense this when you visit the stores and the placement of the iPads within.” If Dediu’s conclusion is correct, Apple’s current December quarter might be a record-setting one for the company, since it recently unveiled two new iPad models: the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display.
Besides noting Apple Store growth over the past several years, Dediu also highlighted that the number of visitors to Apple’s retail stores in the September quarter was the third highest overall in the company’s history. According to the analyst, Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail stores saw 99 million visitors last year.
Apple’s retail operations are also likely to benefit from the recent hiring of Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts. As noted in Apple’s press announcement, Ahrendts led Burberry “through a period of outstanding global growth.” With the release of two new iPad models and the addition of an experienced retail executive to Apple’s team, Apple’s stores are likely to become even more important for the company’s overall growth in the coming quarters.
Here’s how Apple traded over the past week.
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