Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Did Apple Just Fire 1,600 Retail Workers? Nope.

apple-storeQuestion of the day: Did Apple somehow lay off 10 percent of its retail staff in the last quarter without anyone noticing until today? Answer: No.

My bloggy brethren are hopped up about Apple’s disclosure, via its most recent quarterly filing with the SEC, that its retail group had “approximately 14,000 full-time equivalent employees” at the end of March. Three months earlier, that number had been 15,600.

But let’s be clear: Those aren’t 14,000, or 15,600, employees. Those are 14,000, or 15,600 full-time equivalents–basically, an accounting term that measures the number of man-hours Apple (AAPL) is paying for, not the number of men (or women) it employs. So the very strong likelihood here is that Apple cut a lot of workers’ hours, but not workers themselves.

I asked Apple officials for a definitive statement on this, but they referred me back to their 10-Q.

Still, there’s no denying that sales have slowed at Apple’s 252 retail stores. Just ask CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who said this week that average revenue per store in the last quarter was $5.9 million, down from $7.1 million a year earlier, and that margins for the retail unit had shrunk accordingly. From the company’s earnings call, via Seeking Alpha:

“We believe that the year-over-year decline in average store sales and segment margin is a reflection of the continued weakness in the spending environment, coupled with third party channel expansions relative to the year-ago quarter.”

So the cutbacks make sense, as did the fact that the company only opened one store in the last quarter. It says it still intends to open 25 this year. That’s down from 50 a year ago, though that disparity may be a bit deceiving since Apple opened 17 stores in September–the last month of its 2008 fiscal quarter. Had a few of those opened a week later, the numbers would have evened out a bit.

[Image credit: Victoria Peckam]