Apple slows hiring of Genius employees at some retail stores: Sources

Apple's US stores are fully operational after seeing many Covid-related closures and reopenings during 2020 and 2021. PHOTO: AFP

CALIFORNIA (BLOOMBERG) - Apple has slowed hiring at certain retail locations for its Genius technical-support jobs, according to sources with knowledge of the matter, an effort that some employees see as a cost-cutting move.

In recent weeks, Apple informed some stores that it will not be filling Genius positions that became available after employee departures, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because the situation is private.

The company also retracted verbal job offers for such roles in some cases.

Still, Apple has not laid off workers or enacted a widespread hiring freeze, according to the sources.

Apple declined to comment, and the Cupertino, California-based company continues to advertise for Genius roles on its website.

The slowdown has resulted in five or more technical-support positions going unfilled at individual stores, according to employees.

The employees described the changes as part of an effort to lower headcount at locations that are not seeing as many customers as they did before the pandemic.

Apple's Genius role has been a hallmark of its retail experience, an operation that began in 2001 and now spans more than 270 United States stores.

But the tech giant has already been rethinking its approach in recent years. At many of its locations, Apple has eliminated the Genius Bar - an area of the store dedicated to solving problems - opting instead to have employees roam around helping customers.

The company also has outsourced Mac product repairs to remote depots.

Still, Genius employees continue to handle troubleshooting, product repair pick-ups and general assistance.

In more limited cases, Apple has also slowed hiring of its Creative trainers, who teach classes and help customers with projects. The sources with knowledge of the cutbacks said the move risks hurting customer service and leading to longer wait times.

Apple's US stores are fully operational after seeing many Covid-19-related closures and reopenings during 2020 and last year.

The company has recently announced a slew of new stores and brought back in-person classes known as Today at Apple.

Ms Deirdre O'Brien, who also serves as head of human resources, took over as retail chief from Ms Angela Ahrendts in 2019.

Some Apple retail employees had criticised Ms Ahrendt's approach, saying that the executive prioritised branding over customer service.

Ms O'Brien has been more positively received in the job, in part due to her frequent video messages sent to employees and long tenure at the company.

However, Ms O'Brien is facing a new form of unrest: more retail employees pushing for unionisation.

Workers at several stores across the US are seeking union representation, with the company's locations at Grand Central Terminal in New York and the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta leading the charge. 

It is part of a wave that is also hitting Starbucks and Amazon.com.

Apple reports its second-quarter earnings on Thursday when it is expected to post revenue of about US$94 billion (S$129.55 billion) - a record for a non-holiday quarter.

The results are expected to be primarily driven by iPhone, Mac and services sales.

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