SHANGHAI — Although Apple is widely admired in China, most fans of its products here have been buying their iPhones, iPods and Mac computers from smugglers who operate through underground electronics markets. The company has few sales outlets in the country and only one Apple Store, a branch in Beijing.
But with Apple set to open a flagship Saturday in Shanghai — one of its largest stores in Asia — the company is embarking on a concerted effort to raise its profile in the world’s biggest mobile phone market and tap more directly into China’s fast-growing consumer electronics market.
Apple intends to open 25 retail stores in China over the next two years, starting with the Shanghai outlet, which it previewed for reporters Thursday.
“We view this store as a kind of launching pad,” Ron Johnson, senior vice president of retail operations at Apple, said Thursday.
By opening retail outlets in China, Apple is following other global brands eager to market to the country’s increasingly affluent consumers. While overall retail sales in the United States and Europe are weak, China’s economy is booming, and companies like Best Buy, the Gap, Nike, Starbucks, Zara and most of Europe’s big luxury brands are opening new stores in China.
Analysts who follow Apple say that China offers a huge opportunity for the a company because Apple’s market share in the country is tiny — less than 5 percent in most major categories. More...