RealTime IT News

Apple May Be Holding Up in a Down Economy

Apple Store

Just one month ago, NPD Group kicked up something of a stir just last month when it reported that Mac and iPods sales both were down 16 percent from February 2008 to February 2009.

This was chilling, because Apple's position as a high-end product vendor meant it would be vulnerable to the economic climate that has Americans eliminating expensive purchases. There had always been the question of whether or not Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) could defy the conditions in the marketplace and continue selling its high-priced products.

But this week, investment banking firm Piper Jaffray put out a report that gave reason for optimism ahead of Apple's fiscal second-quarter figures.

The firm watched 25 Apple retail stores around the U.S. for one week and saw signs that while some portions of the business may be below expectations, Apple fans may have reason to cheer.

The company concluded that Apple was selling an average of 22 iPhones a day and 28 Macs a day per store. Based on that data, it appears that Apple will have sold 3.7 million iPhones during the quarter and 2.2 million Macs, Piper said.

iMac sales may be showing continued strength thanks to the new line of iMacs introduced in March. During the previous quarter, which included the all-important holiday shopping season, Apple sold 2.3 million Macs.

However, if Piper's projections are accurate, iPhone sales may actually be down from its previous estimates of 4.4 million units.

Still, the report stated that international sales are not counted and may help the company hit that target.

Then there are the incessant rumors that a new iPhone, maybe two, would ship this June or July, which may have customers holding off purchases.

Piper also checked in on Apple's ubiquitous iPod, which might be thought to be nearing market saturation state at this point. Piper estimates that iPod sales should be in line with Street estimates of approximately 10 million units, helped by the March 11 launch of the tiny new iPod shuffle.

Last quarter -- which included the brisk holiday shopping period -- Apple sold 22.7 million iPods, a 3 percent increase over the previous year.

It's not exactly a complete picture; Apple has 250 stores, some overseas, and its stores only account for half of revenues. But it does give an optimistic picture ahead of earnings that Apple is indeed weathering the storm.

On its last quarterly conference call, Apple executives told investors that it expects revenue of about $7.8 billion and earnings per share of about 95 cents for the quarter -- nothing to complain about. Plus, Apple is notorious for underestimating its numbers and then giving the "ta-da!" surprise when it exceeds its own projections.

Apple will report its second-quarter numbers on April 22 after the close of the market.