Even among the top performers, Apple was well ahead of its peers. Its productivity was twice as good as Tiffany, which had sales per square foot of $3,017 in its latest 12 months of earnings. Lululemon in third place reached $1,936.
Opinion is divided among retail watchers over how much the success of Apple's 390 global stores comes from their sleek design, sparky staff and mobile check outs and how much comes from the huge popularity of Apple devices.
"Consumers get excited about the product," said Robin Lewis, chief executive of The Robin Report. "Attached to that is also a learning process. You've got these young, attractive [store staff] and they're all addicted to the brand themselves."
Mr. Browett, the short-lived head of Apple retail and a former head of British electronics retailer Dixons [DXNS-LN 24.85 0.05 (+0.2%)], is reported to have tried to cut costs by reducing part-time staff.
Ron Johnson, his predecessor, is seeking to apply Apple methods to JC Penney, a tired department store, but so far his transformation has triggered a precipitous fall in sales. JC Penney's sales per square foot are $128, according to Retail Sails.
Fourth and fifth in the retail productivity rankings were Coach, a handbag maker with sales per square foot of $1,871, and Michael Kors [KORS 51.615 1.035 (+2.05%) ], a fashion group whose figure was $1,431.
Then came Select Comfort [SCSS 26.54 0.26 (+0.99%) ], which owns Sleep Number stores that sell mattresses that can cost several thousand dollars.
"They make two or three sales and that makes the whole day for them in an individual store," said Mr. Mason.
The top ten was completed by True Religion [TRLG 25.21 -1.08 (-4.11%) ], a denim specialist; Vera Bradley [VRA 27.26 0.29 (+1.08%) ], which sells colorful bags; Birks & Mayors [BMJ 0.89 --- UNCH ], a jeweler; and Fairway, an upscale supermarket.
Wal-Mart US [WMT 72.09 -0.39 (-0.54%) ] had sales per square foot of $424. By selling high volumes of groceries and general merchandise to low-income consumers, it is in many ways the antithesis of Apple.
More than half of Apple's 72,800 full-time employees worked in its retail stores as of September. Apple said its average revenue per store increased 19 per cent last year to $51.5 million.