Annual Retail Conference Cancelled on Short Notice

October 26, 2012

Right about now, some 800 Apple retail employees would be packing their suitcases and heading home from Phoenix (Ariz.) after the company’s annual Retail Team Conference. Instead, the conference was abruptly cancelled last week on short notice, and all the participants stayed home to put in a routine work-week. The five-day conference has always been a key annual get-together for top-level retail team members from around the world. Participants spend time reviewing store operations over the past year, attend training classes, receive recognition and strategize for the coming year. But sources say this year, just days before participants were to travel, they were notified the gathering had been cancelled. The sources said this week’s new product event was the reason given for the cancellation. However, they noted Apple has previously scheduled product debuts during the week of a retail conference without conflicts, including last year’s iPhone 4s launch during the Chicago conference. That raises questions about the real motive for the cancellation. Previous reports have documented various cost-cutting measures instituted by Sr. V-P Retail John Browett, hired by Apple earlier this year. The cuts were aimed at retail store employees, and ostensibly intended to streamline store operations. But sources said the motive was really to reduce retail segment expenses, thereby improving the unit’s profit margin. The sources speculate that this week’s conference cancellation is part of Browett’s continuing move towards a leaner retail operation. If true, it means that even upper-level, veteran executives and staffers are not immune to Browett’s search for cost savings. In this case, even with substantial no-show penalties for airline tickets, hotel rooms and meeting spaces, sources said that canceling the event would still be considered a money-saver.

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