Apple is planning to launch its own retail outlets to expand its sales.

The company is looking to open a chain of Apple-branded retail stores in the US. Apple currently sells its products through mail order and retail resellers and its Web-based Apple Store.

Launching a retail presence would boost sales and open-up new opportunities for Apple to build its bottom line through branded merchandise sales.

The news, first reported in today’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ), reports that Apple is planning to open its stores in some of the largest US cities. The WSJ claims "several sources" have been briefed on the plans by Apple execs in recent months. It is thought that the stores will carry small amounts of stock, acting instead as a showcase for the company’s products – a high-street presence for the company’s online Apple Store.

If the reports are true, the company could be risking its relationship with its traditional retailers. The WSJ claims the company has been recruiting retail-aware staff in recent months, including employees of Gateway computer, which already has a high-street store presence in the US. Last year, Apple hired Allen Moyer, who helped design retail centres for Sony.

Apple has attracted criticism from its resellers recently for its focus on the Apple Store. They complain that its dealer margins are already slight, and are also angry that the company will only distribute its 500MHz G4 Cube and entire range of freshly-launched Key Lime iBooks through the Apple Store.