After operating in the Chinese mainland market for 15 years through agents, Apple (AAPL) now has decided to open its first boutique store in China to expand its retail business.

According to Sina.com, Apple will open a retail store in Beijing's Sanlitun area in August this year. Though Apple is still as restrained as before by saying that it has never released the news on the opening of the store, its dealer at Beijing's Shin Kong Place has disclosed to the media that Apple will open the store, which is the first direct-run store for Apple in mainland China, at Sanlitun Village, a new property developed by Hong Kong based Swire Properties.

Consisting of three floors, Apple's new store is reported to be 995 square meters in size, which is much larger than earlier expected.

By 2006, Apple's sale in China never took more than 1% of the company's total global sales. However, this began to change in the second half of 2006 when Apple appointed Lu Lei as the person in charge of its business in the Asia Pacific Region and Apple's goods began to appear in some high-end shopping malls in China.

As of now, there are more than 400 Apple stores across China, and thousands more bootleg iPhones that have been smuggled into China. Apple says it will launch the new iPhone 3G in Hong Kong on July 11, but it still has no plans to enter mainland China because it has not found a suitable partner.

To speed up Apple's expansion in China, Apple China reportedly has established three business departments of BtoB, BtoC and Edu, focusing on businesses, consumers, and schools, respectively.

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