Market Insider

Are the Apple Store Glory Days Over?

Could it be that Apple retail chief Ron Johnson’s departure for J.C. Penney was steeped as much in a peak in the performance of Apple stores as much as the opportunity he sees at the department store chain?

Apple Store Upper Westside Manhattan
Source: Apple

After looking at last quarter’s retail sales, the answer: It had to be in the back of his mind.

The best take on this from Jeff Matthews in his “Jeff Matthews is Not Making this Up” blog. (I’ve known Jeff for 20 years. He always asks some of the best questions.)

His take:

"Something’s happening at Apple . We’re not sure what, but something’s happening.

Yes, everybody knows Apple’s quarterly earnings report disappointed Wall Street’s Finest. And yes, everybody knows Apple managed to calm the disappointed herd, mainly by using the phrase “we’re thrilled” seven times during the call while pointing out that the big miss in iPhone sales was likely due everybody waiting around to buy the new iPhone 4S.

But not one of Wall Street’s Finest—not one—asked about the most disturbing pattern coming out of Apple’s earning release: the measly 1 percent year/year revenue increase at Apple’s retail stores, the 26 percent year/year profit decline at Apple’s retail stores, and the mere 4 percent year/year growth in visitors to Apple’s retail stores.

Certainly, there was an impact at the retail stores from the Apple Faithful waiting for the new iPhone. But even before this quarter jaw-dropping hit, Apple’s retail stores had been losing their mojo.

For example, from the December 2009 to the June 2010 quarter, retail visits rose from 51 million to 61 million. This year, visits from December 2010 to June 2011 did not rise at all—from 76 million to 74 million.

Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t—exactly—clear."

Or maybe it’s so clear it’s hard to see.

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