“Look but don’t buy.” That’s the new mantra at Apple’s still-jammed retail stores, says Mark Veverka at Barron’s:
[F]olks still need a place to go, even if they’re broke, which might explain the relatively strong foot traffic that Apple ‘s 250 or so retail stores — 43 are in California — still seem to enjoy. But as a former editor once preached when I covered the retail beat: “Always watch the registers.”… And indeed, the registers aren’t ringing the way they used to.
Apple’s (ticker: AAPL) same-store revenues, a key retail metric comparing sales of stores open for at least a year, slid 17.4% in the December quarter from a year earlier, reports Needham hardware analyst Charlie Wolf. Visitors per store only fell 1.8%, “but shoppers were not in a spending mood,” Wolf notes…
CONSIDERING THE HEFTY PRICE-POINTS OF IMACS and iPhones, it’s little wonder that Apple’s highly successful retail store operations “fell to earth” in December, Wolf says. The severe drop in December store sales are a harbinger of depressing news for the entire electronics food chain, as manufacturers, component suppliers, chip makers and semi-cap equipment makers all have to ratchet back their operations to reflect the lack of consumer demand. Yet it is an even more sobering development for mall owners, who have come to count on Apple stores as their new rock-star anchors — outperforming nearly every other retailer in their centres. Wolf estimates that the typical 6,000-square-foot Apple store rang up sales of about $4,700 per square foot in 2008, which was “undoubtedly the highest among retail chains in the country,” Wolf says. By comparison, an average Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) restaurant — another retail centre darling — has racked up sales-per-square-foot of about $920 in recent years.
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