Recent Apple Retail screw-ups rumored not to be solved, emblematic of larger, post-Jobs problem
While new Apple Retail head John Browett reportedly apologized and reversed recent staffing decisions that threatened the phenomenal experience of Apple Stores, it's now being rumored that the apologies weren't exactly sincere, weren't actually given to the staff, and may reflect a new, more profit-oriented, less customer-centric, direction instigated by Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer.InfoAppleStore rounds up what they've heard:
After Browett's reversal, insiders say that everyone who had been dismissed was indeed rehired, and inter-store transfers were again approved. However, the number of in-store workshops at some stores has been reduced, sources say, overtime is still limited, demotions were not reversed, and managers are assigning only minimum contracted hours to part-timers. One tipster even claimed Apple has stopped printing the monthly workshop schedules that have been available at high-profile stores for many years.
And as to why it's happening:
But in 2009, Jobs took six months of medical leave and put Tim Cook in charge of the company, including the retail stores. Cook is primarily an "operations guy," sources explain, and his natural focus is revenues and profits, not customers. While Jobs was away, Cook and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer began to confront Johnson on his customer-centric retail philosophy—both felt the stores didn't generate enough revenues to justify operating expenses.
Which seems counter to everything Apple, including everything Apple under Tim Cook, stands for. Hopefully it's not the case. Hopefully Cook, Oppenheimer, and Browett ascribe to the same principles for Apple Retail that Steve Jobs and former retail head Ron Johnson did, that Apple does for everything from iOS and Mac hardware to the most minute of icon details.
Apple's primary weapon against competitors has been experience. I walk into an Apple Store and, even though it's packed, there's a ton of staff and my needs get seen to quickly and expertly. I walk into a Best Buy and it's a wasteland, with entire sections devoid of any staff to the degree that I've often walked out without getting any service.
Apple Retail is one of Apple's crown jewels and one of the most important elements in their resurgence and success. I can't imagine any Apple executive would risk messing with it for any reason.
Take care of the top line and the bottom line will take care of itself was an oft-repeated statement from Steve Jobs. Take care of Apple Retail, and it'll take care of Apple.