The biggest news from the U.S. retail industry last week was generated by rumor mills that had plenty of speculation to share about Apple Store layoffs and Chrysler’s impending bankruptcy. Other weekly news about 2009 store openings and closings came from more verifiable sources. It was another week of unrest and uncertainty for the retail industry.
Despite what some of last week’s headline writers suggested, Apple did not fire 1,600 of its store employees, nor did the company announce or report anything to that effect. The rumors seem to have been born out of some mathematical inferences from Apple’s latest quarterly SEC filing.
It seems that last year at this time, the total number of Apple store labor hours was about ten percent higher than it is now. Somehow that got interpreted as meaning that 10% of Apple’s store employees had gotten pink slips. And in the blogosphere, which sometimes mimics a grade school game of telephone, the timeline got compressed, and the rumor morphed into a massive discard of human resources by a callous Fortune 500 company with obscene record profits in the first quarter of 2009.
Although there has been no official comment from the Apple folks, most likely, their store hours have been cut and vacant positions have remained unfilled over the past year because of general retail recession. It would be pretty impossible for Apple to do a substantial secret layoff over the period of a year without anyone noticing. Apple has better things to do with its creativity than that.
In case you missed the story amidst all the make-believe layoff headlines, a 13 year-old boy from Connecticut downloaded the one biollionth app from the revolutionary Apple App Store last week. That’s a nice number after just nine months in business.
It was fascinating to read the blogitorial criticisms that were flung at Apple for its imaginary layoffs. Monitoring social media is like listening in on hundreds of water cooler conversations simultaneously. The Apple layoff rumor was a great case study in the viral movement of information that can spread through free access channels, and it points out the need for all members of the self-appointed citizen press to remember three important words. Consider the source.
By the way, 240 real layoffs were announced by L.L. Bean last week, and those pink slips will be handed out as early as this week.