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Apple risking its future? Tech giant has more stores in Pennsylvania than all of China

Apple's slow pace of store expansion in the developing world, especially China, may end up costing the company more than just sales, according to analysts cited in a Reuters report.

It turns out that the Cupertino-based tech giant has more stores in Pennsylvania – a US state with a total citizenry of just under 13 million - than it does in the entire People's Republic, which boasts 1.3 billion residents in all, more than three times the population of the entire United States.

Yet at present, Apple has only six stores in Chinese territory – three in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and one in Hong Kong - or one store per 216 million Chinese. The official retail outlets are typically so overwhelmed by demand that customers are known to queue for hours for routine repairs, while product scalpers typically head up lines for new devices and re-sell them at inflated prices as part of a burgeoning 'grey market' for the latest technology.

Apple has repeatedly claimed it is being prudent with regards to expansion in the developing world, with the company now reported to be planning to open an additional two retail outlets in Chengdu and Shenzhen.

Still, the firm has come up well short of its own goals, with former head of retail operations Ron Johnson forecasting that by 2012 Apple would boast 25 Chinese stores, and the company's Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer venturing that branches based in China were among the highest revenue stores for the company.

Industry insiders see the problem as affecting more than simply sales figures, with the presence of unauthorised sellers and, in some instances, counterfeit goods, leading to an erosion in confidence in the brand as a whole at a time when many see China developing into the tech world's leading player.

The frenzy for new Apple products looks likely to continue, with a recent settlement with local firm Proview Electronics finally paving the way for iPad sales to begin in the emerging superpower.