Apple quickens Chinese retail store opening pace

The Cupertino-based technology giant will open five new retail stores in China before Chinese Lunar New Year, set for February 15 this year, taking its total number of official outlets to 20 in the country.

After opening a new retail outlet in Zhengzhou on January 10, where Foxconn's mega manufacturing base that produces 70 percent of iPhones globally is located, Apple will open another store in the wealthy city of Hangzhou on January 24.

Apple's senior vice president of retail, Angela Ahrendts, said the company will open up a total of five Apple retail stores before the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 15, taking Apple's total in China to 20, a NetEase report said.

Last week, investment bank UBS said iPhone sales in China have driven Apple's total handset sales to new heights. Analyst Steven Milunovich said data suggests that China constitutes as much as 35 percent of shipments in the previous quarter, compared with 22 percent a year ago.

That estimation would make China the number one market for iPhones, as only around 24 percent of all iPhone shipments went to the US last quarter, according to a Sina news report.

During a visit to China in October 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that total Apple retail stores would reach 40 in China within the next two years. The company currently owns 448 official retail outlets worldwide.

Ahrendts said in the NetEase report that she's visited China four times during the past seven months since she took the job.

Apple's China online store is the world's fastest-growing one, she said, without giving specific data. NetEase news said that Apple's online store sales surged 80 percent in 2014 over the previous year, quoting unnamed sources.

Ahrendts admitted that many Chinese consumers complain that the company sometimes fails to meet the huge demand in the country, including putting off launching new products and limiting supplies of devices in the country.

Apple launched its latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models on September 9. It was not until this week that Chinese consumers were able to order these devices on its official online shop freely, after three-month purchase restrictions imposed in China.

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