Former Apple SVP of Retail Ron Johnson talks Apple and Microsoft Stores, offers surprising praise for Surface 3

Ron Johnson at Apple store opening

Former Apple Senior Vice President of Retail (then ousted JCPenney CEO) Ron Johnson made a somewhat rare public-facing appearance on Andreessen Horowitz’s podcast. The discussion comes in at just under half an hour and features the former head of Apple Retail discussing his experience with leading the Apple Store as well as the challenge for up-and-coming startup brands to afford brick-and-mortar retail channels, but more interesting from an Apple perspective is Johnson’s praise for Microsoft’s retail stores and the Surface 3 tablet that the company heavily markets against Apple’s MacBook Air.

“I think the Microsoft stores have succeeded much more than popular opinion. […] I think it’s really helped, for instance, the Surface 3. It’s a really great product and we all know that. Everyone who has tried a Surface 3 is pretty blown away with the software, the interaction, how it can be a tablet and a computer, its part of the future. Without those stores that Surface 3 wouldn’t be where it is today.”

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Angela Ahrendts continues debut tour with employee Q&A, New York City Apple Store visits

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New Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts is continuing her Apple debut tour this week. The former Burberry Chief Executive Officer today toured through Apple’s many stores in the New York City area and she also held a question-and-answer session with select Apple Retail Store managers earlier this week week. Ahrendts today sent a memo with a transcript of some of the Q&A points to all retail employees, and a full copy of that transcript, sent in by a source, is below:

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Apple’s Ahrendts to oversee slew of new China, Italy, U.S. stores as organizational restructuring planned

Seeking to enhance Apple’s retail store divison and bring the customer experience to higher levels, new Apple Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts is planning a fundamental restructuring of Apple’s retail stores as she prepares a series of new store openings across the globe for the second half of 2014 and first half of 2015…

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Angela Ahrendts’ first memo to Apple Retail employees: ‘together we will continue to enrich lives and communities’

Burberry Group Plc CEO Angela Ahrendts At The London Stock Exchange

After being on the job for approximately a month and a half, new Apple Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts has sent her first memo to Apple Retail employees. In the memo, Ahrendts discusses Apple’s culture, her visits to stores thus far, and her plans for the future.

“I have spent most of my time getting to know and understand the many functions and teams in Cupertino, along with our short and long term initiatives. I was thrilled to meet many of you at stores in San Francisco and London this month, and I’m looking forward to Tokyo and the Omotesando opening,” Ahrendts said. “Every couple of weeks, we will be visiting stores across the world to see and learn what we do best and hear your thoughts about opportunities ahead,” she added.

We previously profiled Ahrendts plans for transforming Apple retail with a new end-to-end sales experience, mobile payment initiatives, and an increased emphasis on the Chinese consumer. Today’s memo from Ahrendts to employees reiterates many of these points… Read more

Angela Ahrendts’ plan for the future of Apple Retail: China emphasis, mobile payments, revamped experience

Ahrendts succeeds Jobs, Johnson, and Browett (Graphic by Michael Steeber)

When Ron Johnson finalized his decision to move from leading Apple’s retail strategy to become the Chief Executive Officer of J.C. Penney, the executive jumped in his car to drive to Steve Jobs’ home and notify the Apple co-founder in his living room of the decision. During his short car ride to Jobs’ Palo Alto home in the summer of 2011, Johnson likely thought about how he would explain his choice. But what Johnson likely did not imagine is that it would take nearly three years for Apple to find a true new leader for the stores the duo created.

In one of current Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first major missteps, the long-time operations maestro hired John Browett, formerly of Dixons, to run retail. Browett’s hire was immediately met with skepticism from Apple customers and retail employees, but Cook defended the hire and called the British executive the “best [choice] by far” to run Apple’s retail division. In the six months that he ran retail, Browett cut back on employee hours, initiated layoffs, and fell out culturally with the rest of the Apple executive team.

John Browett visiting Apple Store

Alongside Scott Forstall, Browett was ejected from the Cupertino-based company, leaving Tim Cook and head-hunting firm Egon Zehnder, again, with the tall task of finding a suitable replacement for Ron Johnson. As the man who ran Dixons, the United Kingdom equivalent to Best Buy, Browett was in many ways built in the image of Johnson. Johnson ran Apple Retail for nearly a decade, and before that he was an executive at both Target and Mervyns. But unlike Browett, Johnson fit into Apple’s culture and was close with both Jobs and Cook throughout his tenure.

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Apple welcomes new Senior VP Angela Ahrendts with 113,334 AAPL shares worth $68M

Angela-Ahrendts An SEC filing has revealed that Apple granted its incoming retail Angela Ahrendts 113,334 shares in the company. At today’s price (which hit $600 for the first time since the end of 2012), that comes out to about $68 million. Of course, as usual, she’ll need to wait to get the full payout—in this case the stocks will fully vest in 2018.

For comparison, John Browett, the company’s former retail chief, got 100,000 shares when he joined the company, or about $61 million at the time.

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Apple finally finds new Head of Retail: Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts. Will begin in Spring 2014, run Online Stores too

Burberry Group Plc CEO Angela Ahrendts At The London Stock Exchange

Apple today announced that it has finally filled the role of Senior Vice President of Retail: the Cupertino tech giant has hired Angela Ahrendts. Ahrendts is leaving her role as CEO of fashion retailer Burberry to take the top Apple retail job. Ahrendts will also lead Apple’s online stores. She will officially begin her role in Spring 2014.

You may recall Apple replaced its original Head of Retail Ron Johnson, who left for JCPenney but has since been removed from that role, with John Browett, but Browett proved not to be a good fit and was removed almost a year ago to date.

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Unofficial Apple ‘union’ leader leaves the company tomorrow

Photo: Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Photo: Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Cory Moll, an Apple retail employee who founded an unofficial union for Apple Store staff, is leaving the company tomorrow, having apparently resigned.

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Moll founded the ‘Apple Workers Union’ as a Facebook page and now-defunct website, describing it as “a movement of empowerment to bring change and improvement of working conditions to Apple’s retail stores” in response to what some employees felt to be low pay and limited opportunity for advancement.

Moll tweeted earlier today  that tomorrow would be his final day. In an email to 9to5Mac and others, he said: Read more

Poll: Should Apple re-hire Ron Johnson to run its Retail division?

We’re all discussing this here and wondered what the wider Apple community thinks. Read more

Apple retail chief John Browett previews third retail store in Beijing ahead of weekend opening

We told you a couple weeks back that Apple plans to open its third retail store in Beijing on Oct. 20. The new Wangfujing Street store will open at 9 a.m., but Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail John Browett today gave press in Beijing a preview of the three-story location that happens to be Apple’s biggest retail store in Asia. Browett also confirmed Apple will open another store in Shenzhen.

Below, we get some shots of the new store’s 360-degree Genius Bars, three-story glass staircase, and more (courtesy of M.I.C Gadget): Read more

Apple’s new retail SVP and why he was chosen to replace Ron Johnson

We reported last night that Apple officially appointed CEO of Dixons John Browett as its senior vice president of Retail following Ron Johnson’s departure in October of last year. Browett is leaving his position at Dixons Retail, which operates various United Kingdom-based retail stores including Currys, Currys.digital, and PC World. Dixons is one of the largest electronics chains in Europe, and PC World, the last on that list,  is one of the largest computer/consumer electronic retailers in the U.K. It also has a reputation of being a big-box consumer electronic store that consumers describe as “the worst of Best Buy and Radio Shack combined.”

While U.K. product-testing and consumer advocacy group Which? consistently ranked both Currys Digital and PC World at the bottom of its research regarding the Top 100 retail chains, a report from Financial Times explained “Apple has mystery shopped and been impressed.” Specifically, the report mentioned “a system of decision trees to match customers with products” that Browett has implemented while at Dixons.

The calculation of Mr Cook may be that if Mr Browett is good at selling people products that bore them, he will do even better selling them i-gadgets that they lust after.

According to reports in November from BBC, Browett recently renovated more than 250 stores, implemented new service, and customer support strategies. However, the company reported first-half losses of just over £25 million (slightly lower than expected, but higher than losses of £6.9 million the year prior). In 2009, Retail Week (via GigaOm) profiled Browett, calling him “affable and intellectual” and describing his “schoolboy enthusiasm” for technology during a trip to PC World. Here is an excerpt:
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