Apple Cuts Back On Retail Staffing As Sales Slow*

Updated. Apple (AAPL) is cutting costs as its retail division underperforms the rest of its business: In a SEC filing (via CNET), the company reported that it now employs 14,000 “full-time-equivalent” worth of retail workers, down 1,600 from the end of 2008.

That’s a roughly 10% staffing cut, but as Peter Kafka notes at MediaMemo, it’s not necessarily a staff reduction. “Full-time equivalent” means just that — the equivalent of one person working a full-time job. It could also be two people working half-time jobs; which means that Apple could have just cut back on workers’ hours without cutting back on personnel. Apple wouldn’t comment to MediaMemo, referring Kafka to its SEC filing.

Either way, it makes sense: Apple’s retail stores are growing much slower than its overalll business. While overall sales increased 9% year-over-year to $8.16 billion in the March quarter, retail sales grew just 1% year-over-year to $1.47 billion, according to stats the company provided on its earnings call. (And while some of the staffing reduction could be seasonal, that’s not necessarily the precedent: Last year, Apple’s staffing increased in the March quarter over the December quarter.)

However, Apple still plans to open 25 stores before the end of September — half outside the U.S. — which suggests its retail employee count will grow again soon.

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