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Apple moseys into Lone Star state

The Mac maker is stepping up its retail efforts, opening its third retail store and expanding an effort that puts Apple employees inside CompUSA stores.

    Apple Computer is stepping up its retail efforts, opening its third retail store and expanding an effort that puts Apple employees inside CompUSA stores.

    The Dallas-area store will open on Friday at a brand new mall, The Shops at Willow Bend. Apple is also set to open its shop at the Mall of America outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul on Aug. 11 and a Chicago-area store on Aug. 25. A Boston-area shop is also set to open next month as part of the computer maker's plans to open 25 stores this year.

    Meanwhile, Apple is also broadening a pilot program that puts Apple employees inside its store-within-a-store locations at CompUSA outlets.

    "Apple sales representatives are working in several CompUSA retail locations to help enhance the customer buying experience," Apple said in a statement provided to CNET News.com. "This pilot program started on April 1, and we'll continue to review its success."

    David Bailey, a Gerard Klauer Mattison analyst who follows Apple, said that putting Apple workers inside CompUSA outlets could help Mac sales.

    "Apple has unique products, and they need a retail system that allows them to articulate the benefits," Bailey said. "It appears the best way for them to do that is to use Apple employees, whether in their own stores or selected national retailers."

    Using the base of CompUSA stores makes sense given that Apple will only have a handful of its own stores, at least this year, Bailey said. Plus, being in CompUSA could help Apple in its stated goal of trying to sway potential Windows-based computer buyers to consider Apple.

    A CompUSA representative was not immediately available for comment.

    Apple executives have stated their unhappiness with the way Macs are sold by some retailers. In a January conference call with financial analysts, Apple Senior Vice President Tim Cook said the company was looking for better representation and would cut ties with some of its sellers.

    In March, Apple and Sears said they were ending a deal that sold Macs through the retail giant.

    As for Apple's new store in the upscale mall in Plano, Texas, company spokesman Mark McClellan said the outlet will be resemble Apple's two existing shops, in McLean, Va., and Glendale, Calif. McClellan said the Dallas-area mall is expected to attract 250,000 visitors in its opening weekend.

    The Apple store will be located between Neiman Marcus and Dillard's, according to the mall's Web site.

    Apple plans to augment the general opening day crowd by targeting Mac fans in the area with an e-mail notifying them about the store.

    McClellan said past e-mail blasts helped the company generate the three-hour lines that characterized the earlier store openings. E-mails are sent to people in the area who have signed up to receive correspondence from Apple, he said.