The issue appears to be market size and demand. Apple had an official presence in South Africa which it relinquished in 1999. For context at the time Apple had lost circa $1.8bn dollars in 1996-1997 which precipitated the return of Steve Jobs to the company.
The Apple Store is a chain of retail stores owned and operated by Apple Inc. The stores sell various Apple products, including Mac personal computers, iPhone smartphones, iPad tablet computers, Apple Watch smartwatches, Apple TV digital media players, software, and both Apple-branded and selected third-party accessories.
The first Apple Stores were originally opened as two locations in May 2001 by then-CEO Steve Jobs, after years of attempting but failing store-within-a-store concepts. Seeing a need for improved retail presentation of the company’s products, he began an effort in 1997 to revamp the retail program to get an improved relationship with consumers and hired Ron Johnson in 2000. Jobs relaunched Apple’s online store in 1997 and opened the first two physical stores in 2001. The media initially speculated that Apple would fail, but its stores were highly successful, bypassing the sales numbers of competing nearby stores and within three years reached US$1 billion in annual sales, becoming the fastest retailer in history to do so. Apple has expanded the number of retail locations and its geographical coverage over the years, with 527 stores across 26 countries and regions worldwide, opening its latest store in Wenzhou, China on November 4, 2023. Strong product sales have placed Apple among the top-tier retail stores, with sales over $16 billion globally in 2011.
In May 2016, Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s then-Senior Vice President of retail, unveiled a significantly redesigned Apple Store in Union Square, San Francisco, featuring large glass doors for the entry, open spaces, and rebranded rooms. In addition to purchasing products, consumers can get advice and help from “Creative Pros” – individuals with specialized knowledge of creative arts; get product support in a tree-lined Genius Grove; and attend sessions, conferences, and community events, with Ahrendts commenting that the goal is to make Apple Stores into “town squares”, a place where people naturally meet up and spend time. The new design will be applied to all Apple Stores worldwide, a process that has seen stores temporarily relocate or close.
Many Apple Stores are located inside shopping malls, but Apple has built several stand-alone flagship stores in high-profile locations. It has been granted design patents and received architectural awards for its stores’ designs and construction, specifically for its use of glass staircases and cubes. The success of Apple Stores has had significant influence over other consumer electronics retailers, who have lost traffic, control and profits due to perceived higher quality of service and products at Apple Stores. Apple’s notable brand loyalty among consumers causes long lines of hundreds of people at new Apple Store openings or product releases. Due to the popularity of the brand, Apple receives many job applications, many of which come from young workers. Apple Store employees receive above-average pay, are offered money toward education and health care, and receive product discounts; however, there are limited or no paths of career advancement. A May 2016 report with an anonymous retail employee highlighted a hostile work environment with harassment from customers, intense internal criticism, and a lack of significant bonuses for securing major business contracts.