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Apple stores understaffed and in confusion as company 'messes up'

Apple has reportedly apologised for a staffing blunder that led to some employees' hours being cut and prompted fears of layoffs.

In an email to store leadership teams, Apple's new senior vice president of retail, John Browett, said the company recently made some staffing changes at its retail stores, according to Dow Jones. As a result, some employees' hours were cut and certain retail locations were left understaffed. Following the kerfuffle, Apple decided to revert back to the old staffing formula.

Browett has reportedly instructed leadership teams to tell employees that that the company "messed up." The communication also reportedly stressed that while shift schedules were changed, nobody was actually laid off. In fact, Apple is now hiring new retail staff.

Layoffs would be puzzling given that Apple just launched its back-to-school promotion and the company is expected to unveil a new iPhone, and possibly a smaller version of the iPad, next month.

"Making these changes was a mistake, and the changes are being reversed," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement to Dow Jones. "Our employees are our most important asset and the ones who provide the world-class service our customers deserve."

Rumors first surfaced last week that Apple retail stores in the UK, US, and Canada were experiencing significant cutbacks in working hours and layoffs. last week reported that Browett, who was formerly chief executive of European technology retailer Dixons Retail, directed the changes in an effort to ratchet up the chain's contribution to company profit.

One of Apple's most startling successes in recent years has been its retail power driven by the now iconic Apple Stores around the world. Apple tapped Browett to lead company's retail strategy back in January, and he took the reins in April. Browett was Tim Cook's first external executive hire since Cook became the CEO of Apple last year, and he took over for Ron Johnson, who now heads up JC Penney.

"Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we've met... We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple," Cook said in January.