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[7 comments]

Apple's new retail chief ready to get to work

April 25, 2014

The mystery over when Angela Ahrendts would begin her tenure running Apple's retail business is finally over. A recent report by The Guardian which said Ms. Ahrendts would leave her post as CEO of Burberry in June turned out to be incorrect. She starts next week.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on the company's earnings call on Wednesday that Ms. Ahrendts is ready to take over the position left open since the company parted ways with John Browett in 2012. Mr. Cook, according to reports, has filled the role of running Apple's retail business the past year-and-a-half.

Most of the buzz has been positive about Ms. Ahrendts joining Apple including talk that she may be in line to take over as the company's CEO once Mr. Cook steps down.

In a discussion last October on RetailWire, Carol Spierckerman, president of newmarketbuilders, wrote, "Tech is fashion these days (largely thanks to Apple) and Ahrendts is a rare left-brain/right-brain talent who will bring fresh thinking to Apple's retail effort."

"Ms. Ahrendts' digital strategy with Burberry in reinventing the luxury brand online and through social channels as well as her experience in expanding the brand in China should prove to benefit Apple," added Karen Herman, founder and design director of Gustie Creative and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist. "Her fashion experience should be a key asset as Apple moves to bring the iWatch to the marketplace."

Apple has been expected to launch innovative new products, such as a health-focused smartwatch, that would move the company into new product categories, but Tim Cook has been criticized for the slower pace of introductions. "To do things really well, it takes time," he recently told the Wall Street Journal.

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:AAPL] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

What do you expect to be on the top of Angela Ahrendts' to-do list now that she's finally joining Apple? In particular, what do you expect her to do to reinvigorate sales if Apple slows the pace of new product introductions? What do you see as the logical evolution of the Apple Store experience?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How much of the shine has come off the Apple Store since Ron Johnson left the company in 2011?

Comments:

Apple has the excellent reputation for their in-store experience. I'd be surprised if Ms. Ahrendts tried to mess with success. If anything, she may consider looking at what got the Apple stores where they are and making sure they continue to do the same. Not saying that she shouldn't change anything. Just make sure she doesn't lose what got them to "the dance."

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Our editor-in-chief this morning commented to me that, "People are looking for Apple to introduce a disruptive technology." My knee-jerk reaction: "I think we're disrupted enough, thanks very much."

People have been taught to "think different" but now that we're all different, what's your next trick? That goes for innovation in consumer tech products as well as in the retail store experience. Ms. Ahrendts' mark on the company may have more to do with the maturing of Apple as a storied institution than of starting new revolutions.

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Rick Moss, President, Founder, RetailWire LLC

What I wonder about Apple in general is whether they can regain the magic they are known for. They still have quality products, but they aren't so revolutionary anymore and they have some heavyweight competitors in Google and Amazon. Even Microsoft is making a little noise lately. And, Verizon and AT&T are replicating many elements of their stores. So, I think Apple needs to bring some excitement to its product line, and maybe a new wrinkle or two to its stores.

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

There is no aspect of Information Technology that works parallel with the apparel industry. There are no "go to" IT designers for this year's back to school electronics roll out. I just don't know what either side of the employment negotiation table was thinking when they got married. I sincerely hope the this union meets everyone's expectations. And I hope the future of Apple brings more than color and accessories to the playing field.

'gjarnoldjr'

I guess that Angela Ahrendts might improve the Apple Store experience slightly, in such a way that the Apple Store might become a game changer in the continuous challenge between Android and Apple. Especially since Apple products have been "changed" into a commodity, and need to re-branded to a unique "tool" in every aspect; fashionable, high-tech, extreme ease of use.

Ahrendts might be the person who can reposition Apple; Apple versus Android, as in Burberry versus H&M. Both might look good, but you feel only really special in the luxury one. That's what Steve Jobs had in mind all the time, make you feel special with his products.

Pieter Post, Retail Solution Architect, IBM

Apple seems to be "connecting the dots" (as Steve Jobs used to say) between fashion and digital.

Before Ahrendts, Apple hired the former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent. Where Nike fired, Apple hired, picking up members of the Nike Fuelband team. iWatch has long been the subject of speculation, more because of its wearability than technology.

Ahrendts may be a perfect fit. She is leaving Burberry, in her own words, on strong footing as a "digital, luxury" retailer.

This is but one chapter in the rise of UX as a discipline in technology. The human-machine interface has never been more important. Since the iMac, Apple has led the tech pack in making connections with users. After an era hiring design experts like Jony Ive to build intuitive products, it's now hiring couture experts like Ahrendts to build experiential products.

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Dan Frechtling, Vice President, Global Product Management, hibu, PLC

The Apple store experience continues to set the high water mark for customer experience in the United States. The empowerment of their staff and the leveraging of technology represent the future of retailing.

For Ms. Ahrendts to success with a slowing of new product releases, she must reinforce the other reasons that consumers come to the Apple store -- education and support, and explore ways to build community among store customers, so that the store becomes a fixture in their lives, rather than a place to come when the customer is in trouble.

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Mark Price, Managing Partner, LiftPoint Consulting, Inc.

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