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Sam's Club next to get mini Apple stores?

Wholesale retailer Sam's Club is rumored to be in talks with Apple to bring store-within-stores to Sam's Club warehouses.

The electronics department at Sam's Club, soon to get more Apple gear?
The electronics department at Sam's Club, soon to get more Apple gear? Sam's Club

Despite making a clean break with wholesale retailer Costco in late 2010, Apple could be looking to expand its footprint with one of its rivals, a new report suggests.

Citing anonymous sources, 9to5mac says Apple is in talks with Sam's Club, a membership-only chain operated by Wal-Mart Stores, to expand a current partnership. That could take the form of a store within a store at the wholesale retailer, similar to the deal announced last month between Apple and Target, according to the blog report.

Those store-within-stores would end up at 47 Sam's Club locations in the U.S., 9to5mac says, or it could just wind up with Sam's Club expanding the lineup of Apple products it sells from iPhones, iPods, and iPads to include Macs as well.

A Sam's Club spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, as did one at Apple.

The expansion of Apple's presence at the wholesale retailer's chain would be of special note, given Apple's split with Costco. The two companies decided to stop doing business in December 2010 due--in part--to a restriction that kept Costco from being able to sell Apple's products online. Costco was also not one of the initial batch of retailers permitted to offer the first-generation iPad at launch.

As for Apple's relationship with Sam's Club parent company Wal-Mart, it began selling iPods in early 2005, and has since expanded to Apple's other portable electronic devices including the iPhone and iPad, but not Macs.

Apple operates more than 360 retail stores worldwide, most of which are in the United States. In years prior, the company sought partnerships with electronics retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City, and Sears, to showcase its products. In 1998, Apple changed directions and began pulling out of several of these stores to put its focus into a "store within a store" concept it had with retailer CompUSA. There, buyers would be able to experience Apple products in a controlled environment made separate from the sea of PCs, laptops, and gadgets from other vendors, a strategy it extended to Best Buy, Target and will possibly bring to Sam's Club too.

Updated at 3:54 p.m. PT with a "no comment" from Sam's Club.