Apple Computer to Open Store in Japan

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TOKYO–Apple Computer plans to open its first retail outlet outside of the United States this weekend in one of Tokyo’s most glamorous shopping districts, as it makes a bigger push for the world’s third-largest PC market.

The Tokyo outlet, due to open on Sunday, is a five-story glass-encased building in the Ginza district, just down the street from Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Chaumet, and will offer iMac computers, Power Mac G5 desktops and iPod music players.

Apple’s market presence has been declining in Japan, its second biggest market, as it competes with Sony’s Vaio brand for consumers willing to pay more for a chic computer. “Apple’s market share in Japan used to be higher than it is today and we want to let all of those people know…that Apple is back in a very serious way and investing in Japan,” Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said Thursday.

The Cupertino, Calif., company would not disclose its market share in Japan, but Apple did not rank in the top 10 for domestic share in the latest study done by independent research group MultiMedia Research Institute.

The iconic computer maker already operates 72 stores in the United States and plans to open a second store in Japan next year in Osaka, the nation’s second-biggest city.

Apple joins some of the world’s biggest brand names, including Hermes and Salvatore Ferragamo, to set up shop in the main strip of Tokyo’s Ginza district, which has more foot traffic than Manhattan’s 5th Avenue or the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Sony also operates a store in Ginza.

“We have an established brand that we want to impact positively, and you do that by going to the most dynamic streets,” said Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president of retailing.

By setting up a store in Ginza, Apple also avoids direct competition with huge electronics retail outlets offering everything from digital cameras to Apple’s Power Book laptops.

Despite its low market share in Japan, Apple still has a strong following among the nation’s gadget fans. Its iPod music player, capable of holding up to 10,000 songs, sells well in Japan.

The store in Ginza will include an Internet cafe, a help desk for customer queries, an 84-seat theater for demonstrations and lectures, and classrooms for training.

The Ginza store is Apple’s second biggest store in the world after its Chicago outlet.



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