Angela Ahrendts Could Become Cook’s Most Significant Hire

| Columns and Opinions

The news that Angela Ahrendts has left Burberry to become Apple's Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores really reverberated around tech and fashion circles in London and the wider UK. While some question the decision of a clearly ambitious businesswoman to move from being CEO to being a senior VP, she is taking on one of the biggest roles in one of the world's biggest consumer brands. Having seen the success she had  restoring the fortunes of Burberry, if she is allowed to truly make the role her own, I believe Ms. Ahrendts could be prove a huge success at Apple.

Ms. Ahrendts is credited with turning around the British fashion brand and restoring it to its place at the top of the fashion tree. Prior to her arrival at the company Burberry had lost much of its exclusivity and appeal, but along with designer Christopher Bailey, Ms. Ahrendts remodelled the company, putting her own touches to the classic brand during her decade at the helm.

The obvious point that has been made, but is worth iterating, is that Ms. Ahrendts has been brought in from the fashion world in preparation for the expected launch of the iWatch and other possible wearable technology. This makes sense, particularly in the context of other recent Apple hires. 

However, the element that really sticks out to me is the retail bit of the new title.  Apple Stores were utterly revolutionary when they first appeared;  technology brands were simply not offering customers a decent retail experience, but Apple turned its shops into places you browsed, not just electronics stores you went into with a shopping list and got out of as quickly as you could.

Burberry and Apple have their London flagship stores near each other on London's Regent Street.

As so often happens, many other consumer electronics brands upped their retail game in response to Apple's move. Just recently, for example, we saw pop up Microsoft stores.

While the Apple stores do still offer a mostly excellent experience, it is no longer as unique as it once was. By revamping what happens in them, how products are displayed, and what the experience of going into an Apple store is like, Ahrendts can once again help Apple keep ahead of the competition.

She's got a track record of doing it, too. Just over a year ago, Burberry launched a stunning new flagship store on London's Regent Street and the digitally innovative, bespoke space sealed the deal in confirming Burberry's return. Alongside an advanced sound system that periodically causes burst of digital thunderstorms, the store was jammed full of iPads with staff all using them to work through the brand's inventory and communicate with the stock room, and customers browsing on them, too.

At the time the store opened Ahrendts told Vogue, “Walking through the doors is just like walking into our website. It is Burberry World Live.”

Now, what does that sound like?

It was reported that Ms. Ahrendts will pick up something close to £24 million (about US$38.78 million) in Burberry shares and a "golden welcome" from Apple. However, her departure will be a blow to the aim of Britain's coalition government's aim to increase the number of women on boards of British companies.

If Ms. Ahrendts, like Sir Jonathan Ive, is given freedom by CEO Tim Cook to put her own imprint onto the retail operation, her hire could prove to be one of Apple's most significant.

Comments

Shameer Mulji 1

Sounds like a person with great instinct, vision, & taste.  Like a female version of Steve Jobs. I wonder if she’s successful enough she can make a run for the CEO office.

JustCause

I see her stepping into a very public role, she has the personality and rock star attitude to be at the front and lead. Heck if Tim C wanted to go back to focusing on operations she could be the next CEO.

aardman

Probably what really happened was when the top retail job went vacant at Apple Tim received a hot tip about how some guy was delivering a smashing retail turn around job in the U.K. and he thought it was that Browett guy, when in fact it was that Ahrendts gal.  He soon realized his mistake and finally fixed it.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

xmattingly

Shameer, the thought that Ahrendts could eventually be groomed to take over as CEO of Apple years down the road specifically entered my mind when I read her background.

The pieces are certainly in place for her to be very successful in her new role; she clearly understands the unique, necessary synergy between online & retail experiences, and already knows how to integrate Apple products in the workflow/experience. I predict good things.

Robbo

Just Cause: the moment she was appointed I went on Google to see who she was, came across a couple of interviews and a TED talk (I think) my almost immediate reaction was similar to yours. TC is just not a good public speaker type person, a bit to shy and retiring on stage.

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