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SUNNYVALE, CA-Palm Inc., the maker of hand-held organizers and related products, has expanded its store base by nearly 30% with the opening of five new stores in California, citing the success of existing retail stores that it began rolling out three years ago. The company’s new locations include one at Valley Fair Westfield Shoppingtown in San Jose, two at San Francisco International Airport, one at Palm’s company headquarters and one at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles. All are up and running except for the Grove location, which is due to open Nov. 14.

With its five new locations, Palm now has 22 retail outlets in the US. The new 800-sf store at Valley Fair is an in-line location that replaces an original kiosk at the shopping center, which was the first retail location that Palm established three years ago when it set out to test its retail store strategy, according to John Hartnett, SVP of Palm’s sales and customer service operations. Hartnett said that early surveys have shown that more than 31% of shoppers who stop at the Palm Retail Stores purchase from the company’s other retail partners, “giving us confidence that the stores are a strategic as well as commercial success.”

One part of the company’s strategy is to put some of the retail stores in airports, which the company says are popular with traveling business customers who find the airport locations convenient for upgrading existing Palm products or buying accessories while traveling. But the company also seeks to draw in new users at the retail sites, which it does by encouraging customers to try its products at the retail stores, says Kanwal Sharma, director of Palm Retail Stores.

The new Palm stores carry the company’s Palm Treo smartphones, the Palm LifeDrive mobile manager and the Palm TX hand-held and Palm Z22 organizers, along with software applications from Palm and third-party developers. In addition to the retail stores, the company sells its products via the Internet, through other retailers and resellers and other channels.

For Palm’s hand-held computing products in the US, retailers represent its largest sales channel, according to the company’s latest 10K report, which notes that those retailers include national and regional office supply stores, computer superstores, consumer electronics retailers and mass merchants. Distributors represent its second largest US sales channel and generally sell to both traditional and Internet retailers and resellers. The company also has more than 100 international distributors covering Europe, Latin America, Canada, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and South Africa.

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