One of the most bewildering questions about Apple’s retail operation is why Japan has so few stores, given its tech orientation and that it was the location of Apple’s very first international store. Despite those two advantages, Apple shut down retail store expansion in Japan after just three years and seven stores. Now, after seven long years of waiting, residents of Tokyo will reportedly have one more Apple store to visit. According to Bloomberg News, the store will be in the Omotoesando shopping district of Tokyo, just an eight-minute walk from the existing Shibuya retail store. It would become the third store in the city of 13.2 million residents. Apple’s first store outside the United States opened on U.S. Thanksgiving weekend 2003 at Ginza (Tokyo). Over 1,980 people formed a line in the rain to visit the store’s grand opening—the longest line ever for an Apple store opening. After that event, six more stores would open in the country, with most recent store opening in Sapporo in June 2006. At that point, Canada and the UK were the only other countries with Apple stores. Since that last Japan store, another 145 international stores have opened, all while Japan waited…and waited.
Long before Apple’s retail entry into Japan, the country had a reputation of being enormously competitive in the electronics field. On the other side, consumers are known to be fiercely loyal to certain brands, makes and even models of gadgets. Cracking that combination had been difficult for other retailers before Apple retail arrived, and has been that way ever since.
The worldwide recession reportedly also affected Apple’s decisions on where to locate new international stores, including in Japan. Now, seven years later, Apple perhaps sees a slight uptick in revenues and Macintosh sales, and is confident of an improving economy. According to Bloomberg’s source, the store could open in February 2014.
The chart (right) shows that Japan has the second largest number of residents per Apple store, dwarfed by nearby China. At the other end, Australia leads the chain with the most stores for its population despite its huge geographic size.
The charts below provide some perspective on Japan’s slow store expansion. They show Japan’s lackluster Macintosh sales and slowly growing revenues, explaining why the country did not participate in the world-wide expansion of Apple’s retail chain.
These figures do not include Apple’s retail stores in the country, but rather sales through other channels. Apple does not disclose retail store financials by country or region.
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