Bite Out of Apple? Layoff Rumors Swirl

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With Silicon Valley weighing the impact of a weak global economy , rumors are swirling that even Apple ( AAPL) may lay off employees at some of its retail locations.

Apple is reportedly laying off retail employees around the globe, and part-time employees are seeing their hours cut, Apple blog MacRumors noted.

The layoffs, however, would come as a major surprise given the success of Apple's retail empire. Apple Stores have been the envy of every other retailer in the world with tremendous foot traffic, record sales and chic designs. Earlier this year, Apple hired retail guru John Browett, formerly of U.K. retailer Dixons to take over the stores from Ron Johnson, who left to become CEO of J.C. Penney ( JCP).

Recent numbers certainly indicate a healthy Apple retail environment. During its recent fiscal third-quarter, revenue from Apple's retail stores was $4.1 billion, an increase of 17% from the prior year's quarter, driven primarily by record iPad sales and iPhone growth.

Apple opened a total of nine new stores during the quarter, and exited the period with a total of 372 stores, including 123 stores outside the U.S.

The layoff rumors also come just a few months after Apple Store employees were reportedly given raises for their work.

If the layoff rumors are true, though, they could indicate a misstep from Browett and his team. Nonetheless, scaling back employees before the launch of the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini, particularly with the holiday season looming, would be an unusual move for the tech giant.

Apple Store employees have reached out to MacRumors in recent weeks to say they and others are being laid off. Locales reportedly include Apple Stores in the U.K., and other sites amongst Apple's 370-plus stores around the world. There are also reports of part-time employees in both the U.S. and Canada having their hours cutback.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company blamed its third-quarter earnings miss partly on consumers awaiting its latest products, but also cited the weak economies in Europe and elsewhere for its sales and earnings shortfall.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment for this story.

Shares of Apple edged higher today, up 1.05% to $636.60 in Tuesday trade.

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-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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