Don't Underestimate The Value Of The Apple Store
The Apple Store was first created as a buffer between Apple and electronics retail stores, which were focused entirely on driving customers into Windows products on the basis that they were an easy sell - cheap, relatively profitable for the retailer and well understood by customers.
When Apple first opened the Store in 2001 it was virtually impossible to walk into a retailer and walk out with an Apple computer. You either went to an Apple dealer or you went Windows.
What the Store achieved was to turn that relationship on its head. The Store was happy to sell you an Apple product, but it was just as happy for you to come in and browse, to familiarise yourself with the product on offer, to get advice, assistance or just to surf on the free Wi-Fi hotspots.
Getting people into the Store without pressurising them to buy was a genius move. Once they were comfortable with the concept of Apple - and had been shown what could be achieved with an iMac or iBook (these were the prime consumer products at the time) the Apple Store was the primary tool in winning their loyalty.
Have a problem with your Apple? Walk into the Store and a Genius would put it right for you, whether it was a product or user problem.
Building out that retail presence was as much about building Apple community as winning retail sales. In truth the former ensured the latter. It's an often stated mantra that things can always go wrong, it's how you deal with them which decides whether you keep or lose a customer. The high street presence of its retail Store ensured Apple dealt with them better than anybody else.
So when you read about the incredible financial achievement which attaches to Apple Stores, don't forget that, above all, the real achievement was to make Apple a viable consumer brand.