Apple Continues Rebuilding Retail Executive Team, Hires Levi Strauss Exec

Apple has hired a top executive from Levi Strauss and Co. to fill a position in its U.S. retail leadership ranks. Citing unnamed sources and a LinkedIn profile, 9to5Mac reported that Apple hired Enrique Atienza as a "top director" in its U.S. retail operations. His Facebook page also lists Apple as his employer. Mr. Atienza was previously Senior Vice President, Retail Americas and Global Store Operations for Levi Strauss.

Enrique Atienza

Enrique Atienza
Source: Publicly Accessible Facebook Photo

Apple has been without a senior vice president for its retail operations since November of 2012, a crucial role formed and filled by Ron Johnson. Mr. Johnson left Apple for J.C. Penney in in the middle of 2011 (before then CEO Steve Jobs passed away). Mr. Johnson was ousted from the department story earlier this year.

In the meantime, Apple hired John Browett in 2012 to take over the position, but he was fired after only a few months on the job. The position has remained vacant since then, and other retail executives have departed Apple in the months since.

Mr. Atienza will oversee operations in "many regions" on the West Coast, an important market for Apple. He will not, however, be at the VP level, but will instead answer to vice president Steve Cano, who recently earned an expanded vice president's role. He reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, but that could change if and when Apple fills the senior vice president position.

All of which paints the picture that Tim Cook is rebuilding his retail team, though that process is ongoing. Apple's retail operations are very important to the company's overall success. Not only do the Apple Stores sell billions of dollars of Apple products direct to consumers, the stores serve as Apple's ambassadors to the public.

Walk by any Apple Store on the planet, and odds are that it will be packed. This imagery has helped form and cement Apple's perception as a leader in smartphones, computers, music players, and tablets.

Accordingly, its retail executives are vital to Apple's continued success. Right now, retail is being supervised by Tim Cook with possible help CFO Peter Oppenheimer (Apple hasn't explained), executives who have other things to do.

On the one hand, it's great that Apple isn't rushing into another senior vice president hire like John Browett appears to have been. On the other, we can hope that the process accelerates sooner, rather than later.