The magic of 285 Apple Stores

How the company's growing retail presence is driving Mac market share gains

In a report to clients issued overnight Monday about Apple's (aapl) opportunities for growth in China, Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty adds, almost as a throwaway, the instructive charts at right (see also below the fold).

They show what she calls the "Positive Correlation Between Apple Store Expansion and Mac Market Share."

Correlation does not mean causation, of course, but the trends do seem clear. Apple opened 123 stores in the U.S. between Sept. 2003 and Sept. 2009 while the Mac's domestic market share grew from just over 3% to as high as 9% (before dipping below 8% last summer).

In Western Europe, the effect seems even more dramatic: 33 stores and a market share that grew from as low as 1.5% to more than 5%.

All this is to support Huberty's contention that China represents Apple’s next major geographic growth opportunity, and that Apple's plan to open 25 retail stores in China, announced during its shareholders meeting in February, could help drive Apple's share price  -- in her "bull case" scenario -- as high as $325 to $435 within a year. See here.

Below: Those bar charts, full size.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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