Apple, which lost its retail chief to J.C. Penney last year, hired the CEO of Britain's top electronics chain to replace him and spur an international expansion.

By hiring John Browett, 48, from Dixons, Apple indicated it wants to charge full speed ahead on its highly lucrative retail campaign, which now has 361 global stores, most of them profitable.

In the first quarter ended Dec. 31, Apple store sales rose 59 percent to $6.1 billion, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company reported. That's more than luxury chains such as Tiffany & Co.

Our retail stores are about customer service, Apple CEO Tim Cook said. We are thrilled to have him (Browett) join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple.

Part of a design push by late Apple Chairman Steve Jobs, the Apple stores were designed as a kind of temple of technology to attract customers seeking to pay Macintosh PCs and iPods 10 years ago.

In 2007, when Apple unveiled the iPhone and later the iPad product line, they lured more customers, attracted by the products as well as service from trained Apple personnel at Genius bars. Last year, Apple EVP Ron Johnson, 52, was hired by Dallas-based Penney to undertake a total revamp as its new CEO.

Apple earlier said it planned to open stores within stores of discounter Target during the first half of 2012, probably in about 25 units of the Minneapolis-based retail chain. Apple has balked at placing products in many of the other national chains.

Target has 1,750 stores throughout the U.S.

Apple shares closed at $456.48, up $2.37, setting another record on Tuesday. Based on the close, it is the world's most valuable company, valued at $425.6 billion.