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ZTE is opening 23 retail stores this year to boost phone sales

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And build brand awareness in China

ZTE will open 23 stores across China and Europe this year to better establish its smartphone brand, according to a report from Bloomberg. A vast majority of the stores will be located in Chinese cities, with three additional locations slated for Germany, Russia, and Mexico. The phone maker, which ranked sixth in global smartphone shipments this past quarter, is trying to boost sales from 53 million units in 2015 to 70 million this year.

The tech retail model was popularized in 2001 by Apple, which has used its stores to establish an iconic presence in many of the world's biggest cities. This approach isn't just for pushing brick-and-mortar purchases. By using a boutique store design and custom architecture and design choices, tech companies can turn the in-store experience into a tourist destination, one as much a marketing tool as it is a mark on a city's urban landscape. "The stores will help us lift brand awareness while spurring sales in the areas we value the most," Zeng told Bloomberg in an interview.

ZTE ranked sixth in global smartphone shipments last quarter

ZTE's newest smartphone, the flagship Axon 7, was announced this week, and it's coming to the US later next month. Even with top-end specs like Qualcomm's highest-end processor, as much as 6GB of RAM, and a quad HD AMOLED display, the company says the price should be only $500. ZTE has no plans to open a retail store in the US just yet, but the Axon 7 is its most recent answer to Apple's iPhone 6S and Samsung's Galaxy S7.