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Job ads signal Apple plans for retail expansion

By Gao Yuan in Beijing | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-07-02 11:18

Electronics giant targets second-tier cities ahead of new iPhone release

Apple Inc plans to open 10 more brick-and-mortar retail stores in China, the company's online recruitment bulletin showed on Tuesday.

The job postings appeared amid hot speculation about its next-generation iPhone release.

The United States-based electronics giant is hiring staff for new stores in six second-tier cities including Shenyang, Liaoning province, Zhengzhou, Henan province and Chongqing, according to a hiring notice posted on the company's website.

Apple plans to open three stores in Chongqing, a municipality that has more than 30 million residents. The city currently does not have a self-owned Apple outlet.

The company has opened 10 stores on the Chinese mainland since 2008. Most of the outlets are in top-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Apple did not reply to e-mail queries from China Daily asking for comments.

"Expanding its retail footprint in China will help Apple significantly in getting both brand and user experience to more local consumers," said Nicole Peng, research director at Canalys China based in Shanghai.

The six cities have nearly 80 million residents in all with an average GDP per capita of more than $10,000, said Peng.

"Some of (the cities) are provincial capitals or critical travel hubs, giving Apple access to large numbers of affluent Chinese middle-class households and consumers living in smaller cities nearby."

China is a longstanding battlefield for global smartphone manufacturers as the world's biggest mobile phone market is also on track to contribute the largest revenues. Phone sales in China will reach $87 billion during 2014, a jump of 53 percent year-on-year, according to Strategy Analytics.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple are betting on the nation's second-tier cities, with strong purchasing power and lower high-end device adoption rates compared with Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, for phone sales.

New stores will also help Apple to sell more next-generation iPhone gadgets, which could be the iPhone 6, industry insiders said.

"Selling contracted phones with carriers has been important for Apple in China. But when it comes to demonstrating a complete user experience for its iOS ecosystem, self-owned flagship stores will still be the most important vehicles to convey the message," said Peng.

Suppliers in China will begin mass production of the iPhone 6 starting this month, according to an earlier Bloomberg report.

The Chinese mainland was among the first markets to sell iPhone 5S/C devices in mid 2013.

During the first quarter, Apple shipped more than 12 million mobile devices to China, including personal computers, tablets and smartphones. That volume made it the third-largest mobile device vendor in the country after Samsung and Lenovo Group Ltd, according to Canalys.

Apple had a 6.6 percent share in the Chinese smartphone market as of the end of the first quarter, well behind Samsung and Lenovo, which had double-digit market shares, data from local research firm Analysys International show.

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