Apple Tops List of Most Seductive U.S. Retailers

PHOTO: Shoppers check out the new Apple iPad mini at the Apple store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago on Nov. 2, 2012.PlayM. Spencer Green/AP Photo
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Apple's retail stores ring up more sales per square foot than any others in the U.S.--$6,050. That's almost twice as much as runner-up Tiffany ($3,017) and three times the sales of third-placed Lululemon Athletica ($1,936), which retails yoga clothing.

These stores ring up such high sales per square foot because they create a seductive experience for shoppers, releasing a feeling of euphoria, retail experts told ABC News.

The findings are part of a report by research company RetailSails, which examined the productivity of 200 U.S. retailers in 15 different product sectors. Filling out the list of RetailSails' 10 best-selling stores are:

-Coach: $1,871 -Michael Kors: $1,431 -Select Comfort: $1,314 -True Religion: $1,227 -Vera Bradley: $1,186 -Birks & Mayors: $1,082; and -Fairway Market: $1,081.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD group, a market research company, explains what top retailers have in common: "We've entered into a period where specialty stores rule the roost," he says. "The consumer is looking for products they can't find elsewhere, and for retailers that offer a complete experience."

At Apple, for example, the experience goes far beyond a customer's acquiring merchandise: He or she can chat-up computer experts at Apple's Genius Bar for tips on how to get the most use and value out of the products that they buy.

Retail expert Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail and CEO of industry newsletter The Robin Report, says that Apple was among the first retailers to exploit what a growing body of scientific behavioral research proves: that bonds with consumers have to be forged in-person, not just online.

"That's why Apple went into bricks-and-mortar retailing," says Lewis. "And it's why you'll see Amazon and eBay do the same. You can't create the kind of experience consumers want by selling to them just online. The emotional and neurological connection has to be made in person. What the research shows is that retailers who sell both online and through their own brick and mortar stores achieve sales 40-50 percent higher than those who sell through just one channel or the other."

He says that when consumers are offered an in-person, in-store participatory experience, their brains release the chemical dopamine, which causes feelings of satisfaction, euphoria and well-being.

Sporting goods retailer Cabelas, he says, offers in-store lessons on fly casting. Lululemon teaches yoga in-store. Apple achieves the same effect with its Genius Bar and with classes on word processing or graphic design.

It's difficult, says Josh Ramer, editor of the RetailSails report, to compare star performers across product categories—to compare, say, La-Z-Boy and RadioShack. "But I believe," he says, "that all the top performers have two things in common. First, they are all 'brand ambassadors.' Apple's an obvious example—its customers are its own best marketers." Likewise, he says, Lululemon and Costco rely on word of mouth and customer loyalty to drive their business, rather than on conventional marketing.

Top retailers, says Ramer, also create a unique and exciting shopping environment. "With online sales increasing 15 percent or more a year, and with mobile/table shopping taking off, chains have to wow shoppers to get them in the store."