Apple isn’t building retail stores as fast as its sales are growing

Apple(s AAPL) has about 400 stores in 14 countries, and they are at peak traffic — 370 million people walked through their doors last year.  But as the data below shows, while Apple is selling more iPhones, iPads and Macs than ever, it’s having a hard time keeping up on the retail store front. Horace Dediu at Asymco pulled together the data in a chart that shows how Apple isn’t building new stores fast enough relative to its expanding sales.

Asymco Apple Store Openings

Credit: Asymco

Apple’s net sales have taken off since the dawning of the iPhone era. New store ribbon cuttings were at their highest in 2008 — 47 opened that year — when net sales were at about $10 billion. But since then, Apple’s net sales per year have reached $40 billion and store openings haven’t been opening at the same rate.

Also during that time, Apple’s revenue from sales in its own stores is compared to its revenues from third-party retail partners have been shrinking: Asymco notes that five years ago its own retail revenue was about $4.7 billion, or about 17 percent, while last year its $19.1 billion in retail revenue represented 12 percent.

Apple Stores are not just a place to sell things, of course. They’re customer service counters, customer education classrooms and show rooms for Apple style and culture. And they’re continuing to bring more customers into Apple’s ranks. But its expanding sales show that it needs more stores.

One of the things CEO Tim Cook mentioned as a priority in 2013 for Apple is that it will be investing “like crazy” in retail, specifically international retail stores in new countries. So far, however, it looks as though he’ll be doing that all without someone dedicated to guiding the retail ship.