Confirming the persistent rumors of several months, Apple Computer yesterday announced plans to capitalize on its brand with the launch of a retail chain vending its successful iMac and other core products.

The first store opening is scheduled for May 19 at a shopping mall near Washington DC. It will not only target the devoted army of Apple afficionados – the concept also hopes to attract PC-users. In addition to touting Apple products, the stores will demonstrate the latest hot-selling software releases, among them the iTunes jukebox.

Insiders predict that emphasis will be on showcasing Apple merchandise with the stores stocking little or no inventory. At present Apple sells directly via its website and indirectly through online retailers.

The company is zip-lipped about plans for the roll-out of its stores, although analysts had no such inhibitions and predicted openings soon in New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Commented one entrail-raker: "If the company is going to have a real presence in the consumer space, it has to find a way of touching those consumers.”

Apple shares, which have been gaining ground after a raft of new product releases, fell 2.5% yesterday to $25.08.

News source: Financial Times