Apple's Retail Sales Are Bright

Ishfaque is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) retail stores have been holding up very well, as the company’s glossy stores have been pulling in more and more customers. Even though more consumers are leaning towards online shopping, especially for lower ticket items, a majority of consumers still love shopping at stores, especially for higher priced items like phones, tablets, etc.

In the U.S., more than 90% of retail sales still take place through brick-and-mortar outlets, according to RetailSails. Apple's ability to provide a great shopping experience to consumers who enjoy looking and testing out the gadgets of the company is a great positive for the company, especially as its reliance on emerging markets increases.

Retail is doing well for Apple

Sales of hardware and accessories from Apple's stores across the world made up ~12% of total sales in the last quarter. However, it is a steadily growing stream of revenues that are rather stable. In Q2 FY2013, Apple stores saw a decent uptick in store visitors with 91 million, up from the 85 million the company saw a year ago. Total sales from the retail outlets stood at $5.2 billion, which represents strong growth rate of ~19% on a Y/Y basis from $4.4 billion a year ago. This growth in retail revenues was largely driven by higher demand for the iPhone, the iPad, and the newly launched iMac.

The segment’s operating income from its retail presence stood at $1.1 billion, which represents a 5% Y/Y decline, which can be primarily attributed to the lower price per unit across a number of hardware devices. This trend can also be evidenced by the company’s decline in overall gross margins as well.

In Q2 FY2013, the average revenue per store notched up to $13.1 million in the quarter, which is a decent acceleration from the year ago number of $12.2 million per quarter. 

At the end of the last quarter, Apple had 402 stores, of which 151 stores were situated outside the U.S across 13 countries. And in Apple's recent Worldwide Developer Conference, the company's management stated that Apple's retail store count now exceeds 407 stores built in 14 countries outside the U.S. The company's foot traffic now exceeds more than 1 million daily visitors across its retail locations, which translates into more than 90 million visitors each quarter. 

Focus on newer territories

Apple is investing heavily across the board, which includes ramping up the number of stores in place. The company's management pointed to capital expenditures totaling ~$10 billion for fiscal year 2013, of which roughly $850 million will be directed toward building new retail store facilities. 

This fixed investment had a negative impact on the company's operating margin, which was roughly 29% in the last quarter. In addition, the retail business has a much higher portion of fixed costs, as well as heavy staffing costs.  Apple's retail business had roughly 42,600 employees at the end of the last quarter. 

In spite of the short-comings of the retail business, the company plans to expand its retail footprint by opening up around 30 new stores this fiscal year. And most of these newer stores, i.e. roughly 75% of them, will be located outside the U.S. This serves as a great promotional tool to ramp up the company's brand value and achieve higher penetration rates of its products in some rapidly growing countries. Apple has a large fan-base outside North America, and the build out of exclusive Apple stores is a great way to tap into these markets to gain incremental revenues from existing and newer fans of Apple products.

Sales per square feet

A lesser known fact about Apple is a startling one. The company ranked as the most valuable retail per square foot in the U.S. in 2012 for the second consecutive time, according to RetailSails. Apple beats out pricey jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) by a big margin, with Apple achieving sales per sq. ft of $6,050 coming in from its elegantly designed stores. The iconic Tiffany has made women around the globe very happy for generations, and yet Apple managed to do much better than the 275 Tiffany's stores around the globe. The jeweler managed to scoop up half the sales per sq. ft compared to Apple at $3,017. With the global economic environment rebounding, Tiffany represents a solid bet for sales growth on luxury items. Activist investor Dan Loeb recently took a stake of 2.7 million shares on Tiffany& Co., worth $188 million. 

Apple also tops yoga pants retailer Lululemon (NASDAQ: LULU) by 3x in terms of sales. The fashionable yoga pants are a favorite amongst athletic and fitness-conscious women throughout North America, and its retail stores per square foot stood at $1,936. Lululemon just recently laid out its earnings report, and the company reported a healthy same-store-sales increase of 7%, and even beat on the sell-side estimates. However, Lululemon's CEO is leaving the company, which sparked a massive sell-off of ~20% of the company's share price recently.

Even though Apple topped numerous leading retailers on sales per sq ft basis, the company does rank lower when measured on a sales per store basis. Apple ranked on 9th spot as measured by RetailSails, behind big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Costco. However, investors tend to focus on sales per sq. ft and same-store-sales growth when measuring the performance of most retailers in general. 

The Takeaway

Apple has been selling products at lower price-points to target more price-sensitive customers especially in growing regions of the world. The company's increasing number of retail stores, especially in foreign locations is a great plus for the company. More retail outlets enhance the company's brand image and lays the foundation for creating newer Apple gadget buyers.

Lululemon has the potential to grow its sales by 10 times if it can penetrate its other markets like it has in Canada, but the competitive landscape is starting to increase. Can Lululemon fight off larger retailers and ultimately deliver huge profits for savvy investors? The Motley Fool answers these questions and more in its most in-depth Lululemon research available. Thousands have already claimed their own premium ticker coverage; gain instant access to your own by clicking here now.

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Ishfaque Faruk has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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