Apple will open up to 40 new retail stores next year, the company confirmed last night.

Revenue from its store chain forged ahead in its fourth quarter - an impressive $663 million in revenue made Apple's cash tills sing. Retail profit was $35 million.

The company explained that 45 per cent of those buying Macs from its retail outlets are new to the platform.

The equivalent of one-in-four of the UK population has visited an Apple retail store in the quarter, Apple claims 14.8 million people visited one of its global network of shops.

Average quarterly revenue per store is $5.7 million. It has sold 202,000 Macs through its retail outlets.

Concerns that the 202,000 figure represents a small per visitor "attachement rate" should be tempered with knowledge of the huge success of Apple's Genius Bar, Studio and free seminars, all of which attract significant traffic and drive loyalty to the company.

Apple's education sales seem to have recovered. Its US education department sold more units in the quarter than in any quarter in the last ten years.

Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer also dismissed analyst concerns at the health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, saying: "Steve is running the company."