Are Apple’s Retail Employees Worried About Their Jobs?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) retail chief John Browett took the onus for the recent confusion in the company’s store employment system, but it’s possible that the true responsibility lies even higher. According to the ifoAppleStore blog, while Apple’s previous retail chief, Ron Johnson, was all about customer satisfaction and providing a better experience for visitors and buyers and had the sanction of Steve Jobs to focus on those aspects, the new top team has a different philosophy.

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Current chief executive Tim Cook is an “operations guy,” according to the blog, and he has found a kindred soul in Browett. While Cook was in the process of taking over from Jobs, the blog says he and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer began to confront Johnson on his customer-centric retail philosophy. They were of the opinion that the stores didn’t generate enough revenues to justify their operating expenses.

Browett, who joined Apple from the UK-based Dixons, is like minded to Cook with his idea that logic and process lead to revenues and profits. Cook and Browett are now moving the company’s retail operations in a completely different direction, and that’s what probably led to last month’s staffing changes. Even though Apple’s public relations released a statement saying the much talked-about staffing cuts were a mistake that was being reversed, new reports have suggested that budget cutbacks may in fact be real.

Browett, according to ifoAppleStore, has complained that Apple’s stores are “too bloated” with employees and need to run “leaner.”

Meanwhile, according to a new report by Needham’s Charlie Wolf, Apple’s same-store sales grew just 3.2 percent in the June quarter, down from 23.3 percent in March. “Despite a continuing expansion of the Apple Store footprint, store revenues have not kept pace with the growth in Apple’s revenues because of the rapid expansion of the company’s iPhone and iPad distribution network,” he writes.

However, as Wolf says, the company’s stores “play a vital role in building the Apple brand.” The stores have traditionally attracted customers through their welcoming attitude and post-sale services. Browett and Cook may need to tread carefully before tweaking a successful model too much.

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