Apple Stores outrank Tiffany in US retail sales per square foot

Next time you are in an Apple Store, look down. You are standing in the most profitable real estate of all retail. For the second year in a row, Apple Stores rank #1 with the highest sales per square feet, once again beating Tiffany for the top spot.

According to Retail Sales’ ranking of U.S. chain stores, Apple Stores pull in $6,050 per square foot compared to Tiffany’s $3,017. Apple’s brick-and-mortar locations see 100 million visitors every three months, with each Apple Store visitor leaving $45…

Those numbers from Apple financial guru and Asymco analyst Horace Dediu illustrate that the stores are not just a place where consumers can shop for new Apple gadgets, such as the iPhone 5 or iPad mini.

In addition, the Apple Store outlets act as Apple’s informational conduit between Cupertino and its customers. Case in point: Steve Jobs’ decision to drop out of the trade-show circuit.

“He answered that they had the dialog they needed with customers through their stores…,” Dediu writes Tuesday.

But Apple Stores are even more than boosting products and keeping consumers in contact with the mothership – they turned computer support on its ear and made the stores’s Genius Bars a model for rivals. PC owners saw that Mac users “received professional post-sale support thrown in for free¬†– a virtually non-existent resource in the Windows world”, wrote Needham’s analyst Charlie Wolf¬†back in 2010.

Not even a miscue such as hiring, then replacing John Browett as Apple’s Retail chief dented the success of Apple Stores. How did the chain of stores do during the short six months from April to October that Browett was at the reigns?

Pretty well, according to Dediu.

Apple certainly has set the bar high for other electronics companies. Microsoft, Nokia and others have attempted to replicate the Apple Stores model with varying degrees of failure. The key is that Apple Stores are not simply electronics shopping places – there are Best Buy outlets for that.

Apple’s flagship outlet in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Instead, Apple Stores are more like a happening.

You attend Apple Stores the way you go to a spa – to luxuriate in comfort.

Apple Stores have become cultural icons which attract crowds of people awaiting the latest iToy. In a way, news of an impending Apple Store in your neighborhood is received the way huge brands – such as Tiffany’s – may once have been viewed.

It is ironic that Apple launched its branded stores because Macs were rarely displayed by big retailers. Now retail giants such as Wal-mart, Target and others court Apple involvement the way rock stars might be enticed to play at the local arena.

What’s your experience been at Apple Stores?