Angela Ahrendts could spark another Apple retail revolution

“Apple’s retail business has fallen into relative stasis. Its per-square-foot sales are still the envy of retail–just over $6,000, about twice what runner-up Tiffany records–and net sales rose 7% in fiscal 2013, but per-store numbers were flat, since Apple opened 26 new stores during the year,” Jeff Chu writes for Fast Company.

“Morale has flagged as the retail operation has struggled first through a season under an ill-chosen leader and then a year without any chief at all,” Chu writes. “As envisioned and created by Apple mastermind Steve Jobs and his retail lieutenant Ron Johnson, the stores’ design and customer experience were radical, ‘but they haven’t progressed that much in the past five years. If you’re not reinventing your experience every five years, you’re behind the curve,’ says a longtime member of the retail team. ‘Competitors have been trying to emulate Apple’s retail experience for quite a while, and Apple’s been lucky that nobody has done it better. But that’s not a great position to be in, where the competition just sucks more than you do.'”

Angela Ahrendts
Angela Ahrendts
“Press-shy as ever, Apple, too, declined to comment for this story,”Chu writes. “But it’s not hard to see why, after a nearly yearlong search, the company settled on Angela Ahrendts. A beloved manager, she transformed Burberry’s culture, more than tripled earnings, expanded its global footprint, and helped to restore its historic reputation as an innovator. All Apple wants her to do is exactly the same thing.”

Tons more in the extensive full article – recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

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55 Comments

    1. I have that thought a lot, in so many different situations. Sometimes it seems to me that all life and commerce is an elaborate setup, and the only difference between the winner and the fall guy is timing.

  1. Jeff Chu’s article is very well worth reading in full. He demonstrates an excellent understanding of what Apple is about and what Ahrendts can bring to the company.

    There were a number of aspects of the article that jarred with me, but then I realised they were quotes from other people. “If you’re not reinventing your experience every five years, you’re behind the curve”. That quote really seemed wrong because it seemed to advocate change for the sake of change. If you’re already leaving your rivals in the dust, the chances are that you have a winning formula, so while that formula should always be under review, it should only be changed when you have a better formula.

    The quotes from other “retail whizzes” in the sidebar were mostly laughable and put me in mind of how wrongly the retail experts judged Apple’s entry into retail, predicting it to be an expensive failure.

    Chu’s clear understanding of Apple was obvious when he pointed out how Ive and Ahrendts share many values and if they get on well together, they will each inspire the other and Apple will benefit enormously. I think it’s also pretty obvious that she shares similar values to Tim Cook too, which also bodes well for the future.

    She has accepted a huge challenge and from what I have read of her, she will not only rise to the challenge, but take it further.

    1. The full article is a must read. If she can tie Brick & Mortar to online, get along with Ive and find an equivalent ” sidekick” to Bailey, look out!.

      She seems to have an innate ability to connect with customers and employees alike.

  2. rmgt008 posted this above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZNlN31hS78

    I sense a leader with more than just revamping retail stores in her future with Apple. I have not read the article yet, I will do that shortly, but based on this TED Talk, she might just be what Apple has been missing internally for quite a while now.

    Many people here are positive about her, and I went into watching that video prepared to poopoo all over the buzz (I enjoy being an outlier), but even more than being an outlier, I get interested when the majority of people suddenly seem correct. How often does that happen? 😉 Not very.

    1. I have learnt that you are a proper skeptic, an attitude I believe is critical in supporting the emergence of anything great. Without a probing at the edges we have a lazy complacency, a regression to the mean, opportunism, exploitation, mimicry.

      Yet here you are, giving her the benefit of the doubt, on the basis of a tentative if heartfelt speech. Is it something of a magic touch that has given you pause? I only wonder because, although I approved of of her fashion decisions at Burberry, I am unaccustomed to positive male reactions to her management philosophy. I want to think it is all not about gender-specifics, and more about universal values.

  3. Interesting tidbit in this article that Jony Ive was in the camp against aggressive selling by Apple retail employees arguing that the products should sell themselves. I have a feeling he and Angela Ahrendts will work well together.

  4. The fundamental problem is that “the market” has this idea that unless you’re growing you’re dead.

    Purchases are increasingly online. Apple’s stores are possibly at a level that you can’t reasonably earn any more from them individually, they’re packed, and selling at levels that other shops would kill for. At a certain point any increased value comes from their role as a demo centre, as an advert, for people to then buy online.

    Personally I have no real reason to go to an Apple store, I know I’m going to buy an iPhone or a Mac, the only question is when (when I have the money and when my previous one is at least a few years old), and exactly what spec. Since I will typically do upgrades ordering online is easier, plus I hate shops full stop.

    Just opening new stores is not the answer, if you open them too close together you risk just spreading out the same customers.

    You’re only behind the curve if other people have overtaken you and have actually given you something to follow. If everyone else is miles behind you then you are still the curve. It’s the same as the argument that Apple don’t innovate. Even if they don’t (which they do) then neither does anyone else, and comparatively they’d be regressing.

  5. She was/is a merchandiser. Its not a big deal. I work in the rag trade and she’s a dime a dozen. I really don’t see where with all her background in fashion- from Donna Karan – Liz Claiborne how thats going to help Apple. She’s a garmento pure and simple . I don’t frankly see her lasting there long because these two businesses are extremely different – there is nothing similar. She’s going to be a fish out of water.I could be wrong- but I don’t think so.

    1. Also having been in the “rag” business for many years (and now IT), I agree with you. In fact, I cannot envision ANYONE stepping into this role with any success if the thought is that this person must somehow reinvent Retail with the result being skyrocketing sales. While I agree she is probably a great candidate, I think the expectations are simply too high for anyone. All that typically happens in Retail is that the new leadership comes in and redesigns the store’s floor plan & style thinking that it will drive new sales. What is being lost on Apple is that there was so much pent up demand, the first stores surged at the same time new market leading products were being introduced. Barring some new product class (like TV), I cannot see where anyone will make a dramatic difference in sales. Maybe morale will go up, but that’s about it.

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