[SAN FRANCISCO] Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook said the company will open its 24th store in China on Saturday, expanding an important retail footprint in its largest market outside of the US.
China has become an increasingly critical component of Apple's global business and helped it sell a record 13 million iPhones during the debut weekend of its latest handsets last month. Apple stores there are crucial for introducing Chinese consumers to the brand and educating users there, Mr Cook said at a Wall Street Journal conference in Laguna Beach, California, on Monday evening.
"Our customer base specifically is extremely young, and they're thirsty for classes and seminars," Mr Cook said, without naming the city for the new store.
"These stores are taking on just a huge role as the face of the company." Investors keep a close eye on how Apple fares in China, particularly now that the country is on track for its slowest full-year economic expansion in 25 years. Domestic vendors such as Xiaomi Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co are moving up into the mid- and high-end segments, challenging Apple and Samsung Electronics Co even as growth in global smartphone demand decelerates.
Apple reports quarterly earnings next week. Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, accounted for 27 per cent of its revenue in the June quarter, more than all of Europe, and remains a swing factor for the company's iPhone-reliant results.
By the middle of next year, the company expects to operate 40 stores in China. Mr Cook credited former Burberry Group chief executive officer Angela Ahrendts for her work overseeing the company's Chinese retail network.
"She's been on a huge tear there," Mr Cook said.