Apple stores welcome 300 million people in less than a year

What does it take to become the most valuable company in the modern era, as Apple did this week when its market value passed $623 billion (£394 billion) to break Microsoft's record from more than a decade ago during the dotcom boom?

It probably helps to have a wildly successful global retail operation to support your core business of making computers, phones, and other high-tech, consumer-friendly products. Apple Stores are the sites of the geeky love-ins that accompany a major Apple product launch, targets of parodies on South Park, and repositories of perhaps the most micro-managed customer interaction guidelines in all of big-box retail.

Apple Stores were also the destinations of a whopping 300 million shoppers around the world in just the past 10 months, according to The Loop.

Apple, which opened two more outlets in Canada over the weekend to bring its worldwide total of Apple Stores to 375, told the tech site's Jim Dalrymple that those visitor numbers represent the total so far for the company's fiscal 2012 beginning last October. With a couple more months to go, global Apple Store traffic for the full year could approach the estimated US population of 311 million, according to Dalrymple.

That's a pretty staggering number, considering the struggles of big retailers like Borders in the post-recession era. Plus, running brick-and-mortar storefronts was apparently something Apple only decided to do out of desperation, anyway - according to a Wall Street Journal exposé on the origins and operation of the company's Apple Stores, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs decided to build them as a defensive move in the late 1990s, a time when big box computer retailers refused to stock Mac computers due to the weakness of the Apple brand at the time.

Another impressive number relayed to The Loop - some "50,000 people get serviced at [an Apple Store] Genius Bar around the world, every single day."

"That's a lot of appointments," Dalrymple noted.

And possibly a whole lot of indirect revenue to help make Apple's already stunning profit picture even more sparkly. One commenter on The Loop estimated that Genius Bar services, as rolled into the price of Apple products, may be close to paying all non-management Apple Store staff wages. Which basically would mean non-Genius Bar staffers' product sales are pure profit for Apple relative to their wages.

That's all guesswork, of course, and really just an arbitrary bucketing of income and costs in one portion of the ledger (Apple Store sales clearly pay of all employee wages a few times over as well).