ifo AppleStore, a website devoted to info about Apple's retail stores, (!) has an interesting analysis of the contribution of Apple's sticks and bricks stores to their bottom line. It highlights Apple's foresight in not relying solely on direct internet sales, or reseller displays in stores owned by others-- stores that may or may not be all that interested in displaying or selling the products properly.
A review of the financial figures of Apple Inc. starting before the opened the first retail stores in May 2001 shows the impact of the chain on the company’s performance. The stores operated at a loss for the first seven quarters they were open, but then began slowly turned into the black. Profit started at just $1 million in the fourth quarter of 2003, but jumped to $45 million by the first quarter of 2005. The Retail segment’s overall contribution to the company’s revenues also increased over those first four years, starting at just three or four percent, but reaching 16 percent by the first quarter of 2005.
I have purchased the last 4 computers plus additional components without ever talking to a human being, including by clicking right on the ads on the page you're reading this on, as a matter of fact. But Apple might be showing others that if you're selling expensive things based on sleek design, it's best to show that sleek design to your customers first, and in a sleekly designed place, too. Retail: It's not just for clothes anymore. Again.