“While Apple’s storefronts remain the envy of the retail world, sales have flattened as the stores undergo a global growth spurt,” Julia Love reports for The Mercury News. “Using one key measure in the retail industry, the stores generated $4,589 in sales per square foot in fiscal year 2014 — still better than any other brand, but down 23 percent from the $5,971 per square foot logged in 2012, according to research firm Customer Growth Partners.”

“The Apple Store lost a bit of its glow as it went more than a year without a leader after a controversial chief’s ouster in 2012,” Love reports. “The blockbuster launch of the iPhone 6 has given the stores a boost, but Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s newly anointed retail head, will be charged with driving bigger gains, analysts say.”

“And while e-commerce and sales from other vendors bolster its bottom line too, the stores are critical to Apple’s continued growth and ability to dazzle consumers, said Tom Mainelli, a vice president at technology research firm IDC,” Love reports. “Mainelli expects the gains to roll over into next year with the Apple Watch, Apple’s first brand-new product since the iPad, set for an early 2015 release. Offered in two sizes and three collections, the timepiece is a gadget that customers will likely want to try on before taking the plunge.”

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