This past Saturday, The New York Times ran an eyebrow-raising profile of Apple’s retail business. A part of the paper’s ongoing iEconomy series, the controversial story deals with the 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in the United States who work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, many of them making just $25,000 a year.

And while Apple Stores almost double per-square-foot revenue compared to second-ranked Tiffany, Apple’s retail army remains long on loyalty but short on pay, the piece concludes. Those youthful faces that greet and service you at Apple’s 327 global stores aren’t in it for the money: a retail employee makes an average of $25,000 a year, but nets Apple approximately $473,000 annually.

That’s why the company can get away with paying a modest hourly wage and no commission, offering no career path whatsoever. In fact, many former and current employees describe working for the man as a dead end. According to a new report, Apple is about to change this and has outlined a new career path initiative to employees in yesterday’s Apple Retail quarterly meetings across the United States…

The new employee training initiative is dubbed “Pathways” and it focuses on a viable career path for new Apple retail hires, writes Mark Gurman for 9to5Mac.

A few other highlights:

• new Apple retail hires will be considered to be in on-going training during the entirety of their first year working at Apple retail
• the program’s logo is a green iOS icon with a path like, curved arrow formation
• this program affects new and even current employees going through training sessions
• Pathways focuses on providing three-times the amount of core training; core training is basically the basics of working in the Apple Store; new employees are taught customer interaction, store features, and about the products
• Apple Stores will now have a new employee dedicated to managing Pathways and other training operations

Also responding to the New York Times’ article, Apple last week began informing some retail employees that they would receive substantial raises.

Cory Moll, who works for Apple’s flagship San Francisco store and was given a raise of $2.82 an hour to $17.31, describes Cupertino’ change of heart.

My manager called me into his office and said, ‘Apple wants to show that it cares about its workers, and show that it knows how much value you add to the company, by offering a bigger raise than in previous years’.

An Apple spokesman confirmed the raises for The New York Times article.

The inspiring note that Apple gives to its new employees

It’s also worth pointing out how Apple moved swiftly, promising wage increases for Foxconn workers following another controversial article that touched upon working conditions at the company’s supply and manufacturing chain in Asia, based on partially fabricated accusations of mistreatment of workers by Mike Daisey.

Apple’s willingness to relent and tap its $110+ billion cash pile to provide a fairer compensation scheme for its employees coincides with the arrival of John Browett, a former Dickson’s executive who took over Apple Retail following Ron Johnson’s departure for J.C. Penney in November 2011.

He already reached out to retail employees and promised changes that include planned fall wage increases, but it would appear those plans have been accelerated due to bad press generated by The New York Times’ iEconomy reporting series.

John Browett’s outreach to store team sounds positive, but left employees feeling nervous.

9to5Mac interviewed several former and current Apple employees on their feelings about The New York Times story. Polled workers are torn between defending the article and completely disagreeing.

It’s telling that Apple has only decided to improve working conditions in both factories overseas and its own global retail stores after a highly influential newspaper slammed the company over workers mistreatment.

I think Apple CEO Tim Cook takes it personally, because he managed the supply chain as Apple’s op-chief  for years before being named CEO in August 2011. If anyone knows a thing or two about the intricacies of contracting out work to Taiwanese firms, it’s him.

To me, Apple’s actions are welcome, but not timely.

Instead of choosing to be proactive and institute supply chain and retail changes for others to follow, Apple was content with sitting on the sidelines and reaping the benefits of cheap labor. This all changed when the media exposed the company’s business operations that usually are of no interest to readers.

It was only when Apple’s supply and retail practices made headlines that had become a poster child for corporate greediness, which forced the change.

What are your feelings on this controversial topic.

The top image is credited to The San Jose Mercury News.

  • Being a veteran of retail (7 years working for LEGO) I also have mixed feelings about Apple’s recent actions. In defense of Apple and other big names, it’s definitely hard for a company to take care of every little thing as you trickle down the chain to the people at the front lines. There is simply so much going on when it comes to product development, market research, etc. that usually your retail sector isn’t high on the priority list. Apple is a tech company, so they’re main focus is tech. I don’t think any large company has their own brand retail division where there aren’t a few instances of neglect or ways where they can improve. That being said, I applaud Apple for taking a step in the right direction, regardless of what the circumstances are for them. In retail you’ll find that some people care about the product, care about the brand they represent, and then people that simply needed a retail job, regardless of whom they represent or work for. Because of this variance, I can understand why corporate giants can become a little detached from retail, so any upgrade is a welcome addition. However, I’m also hesitant to feel elation at this announcement, because being a retail veteran, I’ve seen these messages before, where they’re going to “open doors” and “create opportunities” and “reach out”. Retail is retail, and sometimes those are ideas are just that, ideas, regardless of intentions.

  • Well written, but I want to add to Apple’s actions not being timely. There aren’t many, if any, companies around the world who are experiencing change in their own corporate environment (although Cook was prepared to take over, if you can say so) but also the impact of their corpoate action at such an intensity as Apple.

    While I greatly welcome the change, I also think they could have acted on that topic way before, but humans are lazy, and greedy. Apple is, too. Of course bad press motivates such changes, but Apple is, at least compared to many other corporations around the world, one of the few who even care about such things as environmental impact, and what comes after doing one thing.

    I see them close to BMW in terms of sustainability, and BMW has been rewarded for that in a sequence of years now, so it pays off. Customers are noticing, too. But this is only a trend that’s growing, sadly not as fast as iPhone sell rates. And critical press helps a lot in this process. Here’s hoping Apple will look at this and see the opportunity – they should do more on that topic before the next wave of bad press comes along. Because people in their stores but also in Foxconn factories deserve better, even if Apple is not paying them directly.

  • “was given a raise of $2.82 an hour to $17.31”

    Is that a typo? No way he was making 2.82 an hour.