One of the smartest decisions that Apple made over the last decade was to open retail stores worldwide, giving users a chance to get some hands on time with its products. One of the worst decisions came recently when the new vice president of retail John Browett decided to gut the operation. Luckily, he admitted his mistake.
Browett, who took over the post from Steve Jobs’ hand-picked head of retail Ron Johnson earlier this year, apparently thought one of the best run retail operations in the world was “too bloated,” according to a detailed post on ifoAppleStore.com.
“Browett’s decision reportedly came despite strongly-worded advice from Retail segment veterans that reducing personnel ahead of the annual Back-to-School promotion and the September introduction of the iPhone 5 could create a customer service catastrophe,” reads the report. “Browett disagreed with his staff, and said the chain needs to learn to run ‘leaner’ in all areas, even if the customer experience is compromised.”
This has the stench of a man looking to make a name for himself, not someone that’s doing what’s best for Apple or more importantly, its customers. To take one of the most heralded retail experiences in the world and gut it, stripping it of everything that makes an Apple store what it is, just doesn’t make sense.
It seems to me that Browett is trying to make Apple retail just like every other retail store on the planet. A few employees trying to satisfy an ever growing consumer base. That formula doesn’t work. It may save a few dollars in the short term and Browett may look like a hero on paper, but in reality the whole company would suffer the consequences.
With $100 billion or so in the bank, the last thing Browett needs to worry about is cost cutting measures to save a few pennies here and there. Instead he should be focused on how to best serve the surge of consumers that will take to the stores in the coming months to buy new Apple products.
I tried to contact Apple’s retail PR team for the last couple of days hoping to get to the bottom of the reports of staff cuts, but so far no reply. [Apple did call me back shortly after this story posted.]
Apple did however give a statement to Dow Jones, admitting its mistake. “Making these changes was a mistake and the changes are being reversed,” said Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman. “Our employees are our most important asset and the ones who provide the world-class service our customers deserve.”
Let’s hope Apple doesn’t let Browett make any more crazy decisions.
Update: I noted that Apple PR did call me back shortly after the story posted.