FORTUNE -- One of the reasons Apple (AAPL) can charge a premium for its products -- and enjoy profit margins that are the envy of tech world -- is that they come, as Steve Jobs once put it, "with motherhood built in." Not only are they usually better made than the competition, but they are accompanied with unmatched service and support.
So when there is a change in that level of support, it tends to get noticed. Witness Wednesday's blanket coverage of the news that Apple's 30-day iPhone return policy -- which let customers bring phones back to the store within a month and get a full refund, no questions asked -- had been cut to 14 days.
It was the second such cutback in as many weeks. At the end of February 9to5Mac reported that Apple will be charging $19 per incident for out-of-warranty chat support that used to be free. (Phone calls are even more expensive: $29 per incident for iOS devices, $49 for Macs.)
The timing of these changes -- in late February and early March -- is interesting. Spring is only a week away, and spring is when Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry's (BURBY), is expected to move into her new role as Apple's new senior vice president for retail, reporting directly to Tim Cook.
One of the mistakes Ahrendts' predecessor made was to alienate Apple's T-shirted retail staff by letting it be known that he thought the Apple Stores were "too bloated" with employees. Four months after John Browett arrived, the company issued a memo to staff describing his cutbacks as "a mistake." Two months later, he was gone.
Apple seems to have learned from the Browett debacle. If cutbacks in Apple's vaunted service and support need to be made, better to make them before Angela Ahrendts arrives.
Angela Ahrendts' move to Apple is big news in Britain and the fashion world.
FORTUNE -- Having apparently learned his lesson when he went down market and tapped John Browett, the head of Dixons, to run Apple's (AAPL) retail empire, Tim Cook went up market this time and replaced Browett with the CEO of a 157-year-old British luxury brand.
By the time Americans woke up to the press release announcing that Angela Ahrendts, the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 15, 2013 7:45 AM ET
A liberal think tank has a novel idea: Give some of that cash to Apple's workers
FORTUNE -- The first paragraph of the commentary posted Wednesday on the website of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank founded by, among others, Clinton-era labor secretary Robert Reich, lays out the thrust of the argument pretty succinctly:
"For more than a year, there has been a high-profile debate over what Apple should do MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 20, 2013 12:20 PM ET
How special are Apple Inc.'s retail outlets?
FORTUNE -- "I don't have very many bad days," Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook told the audience at Goldman Sachs' technology conference Tuesday. "But if I ever feel that I'm dropping down from an excited level, I go and visit a store. It's like a Prozac."
Cook's point was that Apple's retail outlets are not like ordinary stores. "I'm not even sure 'store' is the right MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 13, 2013 8:17 AM ET
Ship times hit 2 weeks Tuesday and a spot check found it at 9 out of 10 of Apple stores
FORTUNE -- Despite stock-outs, production hiccups and Foxconn worker unrest, it looks like Apple (AAPL) will have an iPhone 5 available to sell to anyone who wants one this Christmas.
In a note to clients Wednesday, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster reports that his nightly checks of supplies at 100 Apple Stores showed MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 21, 2012 8:00 AM ET
But the $45 dollars the average Apple Store customer spends each visit is the least of it
FORTUNE -- It is likely that there is no retail outlet in the world that generates as much cash per square foot than an Apple Store.
That's certainly true of the U.S., according to the latest top 10 list from Retail Sails, which ranks U.S. chain stores by their productivity (see chart at right).
Apple (AAPL) MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 13, 2012 7:12 AM ET
Was this the reason, Jean-Louis Gassée asks half seriously, John Browett was fired?
FORTUNE -- In a well-argued memo to management written by a friend of Apple (and former head of advanced product development and worldwide marketing), Jean-Louis Gassée devotes this week's Monday Note to the blaring problem with the company's new flagship store in Palo Alto that some are calling a prototype for future venues:
IT'S WAY TOO LOUD!
Louder, he points out, MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 11, 2012 7:04 PM ET
Thinking about going into Manhattan to visit an Apple Store? Forgetaboutit!
FORTUNE -- I probably won't make it to Apple's (AAPL) flagship Fifth Avenue store Friday for the launch of the iPad mini.
Me and a lot of other people.
Three days after Hurricane Sandy swamped much the U.S. eastern seaboard, there is no power in New York City below 34th Street, no direct subway trains to Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens, no MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 1, 2012 10:39 AM ET
In a reprise of Steve Jobs' celebrated 2007 visit, Tim Cook stops by to check it out
FORTUNE -- I've got three videos for you today:
IDG's 2 minute report on Apple's (AAPL) new store in Palo Alto, which opened Saturday
A 3-minute video of the crowd greeting CEO Tim Cook when he paid a visit
An oft-reposted 2007 video of Steve Jobs visiting the store that this one replaced
The shift in emphasis from service to profits comes from the top, say insiders
FORTUNE -- After Apple (AAPL) public relations released a statement calling staffing cutbacks at its Apple Stores a "mistake" that was being reversed, many thought that John Browett's days at the company might be numbered.
Browett is the Wharton MBA who was brought in from the giant British electronics chain Dixons to run Apple's retail operations after their MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 29, 2012 6:24 AM ET
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