On October 14, 2013, Apple, Inc. announced that they will be hiring Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts as their new Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores.
In Apple’s press release regarding her appointment, Tim Cook stated that, “She (Angela) shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience. She has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record.”
On the first day of her new job, Angela received 113,000 restricted stock units worth about $68 million. Therefore, it is quite limpid that Apple greatly values her expertise and experience.
However, has Angela lived up to the expectations Apple has set for her? I would say so.
On August 1st, Angela visited numerous Apple Stores in the New York City-area as part of her Apple debut tour. During these visits, Ahrendts met with select Apple Retail Store managers and held sessions with them to ask questions, and discuss other aspects regarding the Retail division. One of the stores that Angela visited was the Grand Central Station Apple store.
According to one 9to5mac observer, who happened to be present during Ahrendts visit, “Ahrendts seemed genuinely interested in how the store worked and especially how it was set up.”
This interest, is a good-sign for Apple as it stands in stark contrast to ex-retail head John Browett, who focused largely on trimming costs and using a “businessman” approach to Apple’s Retail Stores. Browett’s actions were met with widespread disapproval from customers and investors alike as his practices did not follow Apple’s cultural and customer based approach to retail stores.
Regardless, Angela’s visits are a part of her grand vision for Apple’s retail division. She has outlined a three-pronged approach for the future of Apple’s retail division: an introduction of mobile-based payments, a dramatic face-lift of Apple’s end-to-end customer experience, and an added emphasis towards Apple’s Chinese retail operations.
Angela is said to believe that the demands and expectations of Chinese consumers are influential, and that Apple needs to ensure that its marketing and sales initiatives are catered to those customers.
To achieve her plans, Angela has been restructuring the upper-managerial framework and has been recruiting talent to further facilitate the process. For instance, she hired former Delta executive Bob Kupbens to manage the online stores. Bob is renowned in the e-commerce industry for significantly revamping Delta’s Web services and experiences; a likely reason why Angela appointed him.
As for the second part of her plan, she has reportedly been working with SVP Of internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue to build a mobile-based payments system for the iPhone. Furthermore, she has been working with newly appointed Bob Kupbens to integrate such technology in Apple’s online and in-person retail stores. Her plan is to blur the distinction between the two mediums of commerce (Retail and Online) for a more cohesive and uniform sales experience.
For the third part of her plan, Angela wishes to revamp the end-to-end sales experience. Apple’s retail division, which was mainly designed under the leadership of ex-SVP Ron Johnson, has been affected by the wear and tear of time. Therefore, Angela wishes to institute a new experience which will last for the next decade, and keep Apple’s competitive edge with customer experience.
Aside from her plans, Angela has been visiting retails stores around the Cupertino area to foster a sense of how Apple’s retail-arm has been functioning and to get a better idea of Apple’s retail division. According to employees, Angela has shown to be deeply committed to the retail experience. They have also marked her warm personality and her genuine concern with all aspects associated to the Retail division.
Therefore, three months in her job, I would argue that she has been living up to the expectations of Apple and public alike. Her impacts on the retail division have yet to be seen and experienced, however, we can be sure that those changes will enhance and improve Apple’s retail division.
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