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ABM refuses to shed light on Apple retail 'cuts'

Situation unclear on whether Apple retail cuts will effect Middle East retail partner operations

Arab Business Machine (ABM) has declined to comment on whether a reported reduction in employees at Apple retail stores has had any implications for its business in the Middle East.

Apple filed an SEC form last week that prompted a flood of stories about the company axing 1,600 retail positions since its fiscal first quarter numbers were published back in January, taking the size of its workforce down to 14,000 people.

When asked to provide clarity on the situation in the Middle East, a spokesperson for the company said: “Arab Business Machine, Apple representative for the Middle East doesn't wish to comment on this.”

Some reports claim talk of Apple cutting personnel numbers at its stores may not be completely accurate because the vendor’s filing refers to the number of full-time “equivalent” staff — an accounting term reflecting the total man-hours of staff it employs rather than the actual number of individuals. Therefore, the ‘reduction’ could be explained by something as simple as a decrease in man-hours following the seasonally-high Christmas period.

In its fiscal second quarter report last week, Apple said that retail sales for the three months to the end of March increased 1% to US$1.471 billion on the back of strong iPhone and MacBook demand, although unit shipments decreased as a result of lower sales across most Mac portable and desktop systems.

Operating income fell from US$334m to US$308m year-on-year during the quarter, while the vendor revealed it had outstanding lease commitments associated with retail space of US$1.3 billion. Apple said it ended the quarter with 252 stores.

In the Middle East, Apple addresses the market through master distributor ABM, which oversees a network of Apple Premium Resellers, Authorised Resellers and Authorised Retailers. ABM operates the Apple ‘iStyle’ stores in the region and has been on an aggressive expansion drive in the past 18 months. It now has five iStyle outlets in the UAE and six in Saudi Arabia.