When the first wave of news was breaking about Apple and its executive shuffle, the initial focus was on Scott Forstall leaving even though that's not actually happening until 2013.
According to the Wall Street Journal, both Forstall and John Browett, Apple's vice president of retail, were asked to leave with Browett's departure an immediate one. Perhaps the reason this didn't get more initial attention is because it was hardly surprising.
First, he came to Cupertino with a less-than-stellar résumé. Previously, he had been CEO of Dixons, a UK retail electronics company not known for excellent customer service. To put it mildly, he was considered a surprising choice, particularly by those who'd actually shopped at Dixons. Once he settled in at Apple, he promptly ignored advice about staffing levels and started making staffing cuts and other changes to turn Apple retail into the same sort of suboptimal experience people can have at any number of other places. When word got out that Browett was attempting to strip Apple retail of its Apple-ness, the staffing order was rescinded.
This adds a bit of retroactive speculation about why the Annual Retail Conference was cancelled on such short notice. Did the head of retail cancel it as part of his quest for cost-cutting? Or was it killed because of bonus product announcements last week? Or was it because the head of retail wouldn't be there since he was back in California cleaning out his desk? We will probably never know. What's telling is that recruiting someone to head up retail will take time, and Apple would rather let the retail division spend some -- or all -- of the holiday season without a leader than let it go on under Browett.