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 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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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

Ron Johnson out as CEO of JCP, Apple Retail boss job still open

johnson_jobs

Former Apple Retail Chief Ron Johnson is out at JCPenney after his radical retail redesign failed to ignite sales in the same manner in which Apple Stores had grown accustomed. Ron Johnson left Apple in 2011 for the JCP job after a decade at Apple.  He helped design the original Apple Store concept after being lured away from Target by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He pioneered concepts like the Genius Bar which was unheard of at the time but still a growing trend in the industry.

We know more than a few folks who would like to see him back at Apple which meanwhile has found him difficult to replace. One such attempt was the hiring and subsequent firing of John Browett, a former Dixon’s UK CEO.

Johnson continued to live in the Bay area during his stint at JCP commuting to Plano Texas via Jet so…

https://twitter.com/parislemon/status/321367332289138690

https://twitter.com/adamlashinsky/status/321369011633917952

https://twitter.com/reuters/status/321371936544399360

We’ve reached out to JCP and Apple for comment and will update as appropriate. Press release follows:
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Internal Apple video documents Apple Store philosophy

Washington Square Films (NYC) gave us a rare look at one of the internal videos that Apple has shown its retail store employees. This one is obviously over a year old, with Ron Johnson at the helm (the date says 7/7/2011).

The video is a pretty impressive piece of work from director Peter Sillen for something that never aired publicly. Among other interesting tidbits, the video shows a store mock-up inside Covent Garden (London) in 2008 before construction with Apple execs examining design elements.

The video seems to be the type you might see on TV. And, with the departure of Ron Johnson (just guessing here), it might have been scrapped without stable store leadership to fill in. Bob Bridger, Apple’s vice president of Retail Development, gets significant ‘face time’, as well.

Update: The video was taken down by Apple. We’ve found another mirror in China embedded above. Here’s a mirror. Here’s another.

Thanks, Gary! Read more

Ron Johnson: Retailing is hard, but Steve told me to trust my intuition and do the right thing

The CEO of JC Penney Ron Johnson sat with CBS “This Morning” to defend his company’s new spokesperson Ellen DeGeneres from attacks by the religious group One Million Moms that seeks to boycott the retailer if it did not axe DeGeneres over her sexual orientation. Putting the controversy aside, the interview (available on the CBS website and over at YouTube) gets interesting at mark 3:50 when Johnson reflects on his long tenure as Apple’s Vice President of Retail. The “Steve Jobs of the retail industry,” as some have dubbed him, said retailing is anything but a walk in the park:

Retailing is hard and that’s what Steve said when we started stores at Apple. But you look, you know, dozen years later and the stores are really popular with people. And they’re really popular because people know that the store cares more what the product does for them than just selling the products. At Apple, in many ways, the relationship with the customer begins when they buy.

Johnson, 53, drew parallels to how he built the Apple Stores on experience. Before joining Apple in January 2000, Johnson served as Target’s Vice President of Merchandising. He left Apple in November 2011 to take the reins at JC Penney. Apple hired CEO of Dixons John Browett as Johnson’s replacement, prompting pundits to opine how folks consider Dixons stores “the worst of Best Buy and Radio Shack combined.” When asked about the lessons he learned from Apple’s cofounder, Johnson responded:

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Former Apple Retail head Ron Johnson talks remaking JC Penney using Apple experience

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former head of retail, pioneered the concept of the Apple Retail Stores and the Genius Bar a decade ago. As you know, he is also yet another established Cupertino executive to use experience at Apple and tap his peers in an effort to transform an industry and rethink a company. Another one: The iPod Godfather Tony Fadell whose intelligent thermostat made quite a stir among the technophiles. Not everyone succeeds, as evident in the case of former Apple hardware chief Jon Rubinstein, who just left Hewlett-Packard following a series of missteps with webOS and Palm.

Due to take over CEO post at the American mid-range department store chain on Feb. 1, Johnson on Wednesday shed more light on a new strategy for an ailing JC Penney, and boy, does it draw from everything he learned during the Apple gig. He conveniently kicked off his presentation with a slide adorned by an Apple logo, which was immediately followed by another “What Were You Thinking?” slide.

Johnson then launched into an appraisal of Apple, likening the iPhone maker to a prime model of lasting brand experiences. Johnson, who left Target for Apple in 2000, recalled that at the time: “There wasn’t one positive believer who thought an Apple retail store could work.”  He then put up a slide depicting the Grand Central outlet, a massive new Apple store built inside New York City’s landmark Grand Central Terminal.

Reiterating how he built Apple Stores on experiences, not commissions, the executive noted:

It’s not about buying. It’s about enriching someone’s life. [...] The magic of the store that makes everyone want to come is all the stuff you get beyond the transaction, ’cause at Apple, the relationship doesn’t end when you buy. That’s where it begins. And we’re going to do that at JC Penney.

A few other interesting highlights are below:
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Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer takes charge of retail division as search for Ron Johnson replacement continues

The Grand Central Terminal store opening had Steve Cano and Bob Bridger in attendance

Until November 1, 2011, Apple’s widely successful retail branch was headed by Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney’s new CEO. Since announcing his leave in June of this year, discussion has run ramptant in regards to the successor of Apple’s vital retail division’s leader. Under Ron Johnson sat three central executives responsible for the upkeep and success of Apple’s retail business: Jerry McDougal, Vice President of Merchandising; Bob Bridger, Vice President of VP of Real Estate; and Steve Cano, Senior Director of  International Retail Operations.

In early November, a report claimed that Steve Cano was tapped as the successor of Ron Johnson, but Apple quickly shot down this report and provided comment to 9to5Mac on the situation:

The search for a replacement for Ron Johnson continues, and Apple has nothing to announce about this subject at this time.

With Apple yet to announce a successor for Ron Johnson, the above comment still stands true. Apple has been actively searching for a new retail chief and according to a report from August, Apple has been working with world-renowned executive search firm Egon Zehnder International to find their new retail chief. At this point, it also appears that Jerry McDougall and Bob Bridger won’t be running Apple retail as neither of them are running the retail show right now.

So, who is running Apple retail?  Read more

Apple’s Black Friday Retail Store Sales were “off the charts”


We obviously had to white out numbers above – From Apple’s Retail inventory system.

A source inside Apple Retail has shared with us the numbers for Apple’s Black Friday sales event.  Black Friday is always huge shopping day and Apple forecasted at least 4X sales for the day.  However, because Apple did have the lowest prices on big ticket items like the iPad, it blew away forecasts by 7PM and unsurprisingly had its biggest sales day of all time..

Apple Retail was forecast and broke Retail sales records all over the country today, this is from [redacted] today, the forecast today is more than 4 times what we normally do. We broke the forecast by 7pm.

MacBook Air sales were also particularly strong according to our source.

Apple Store discounts are extremely rare and with more Stores open than ever before, the temptation was too much for many. Read more

Ron Johnson: How I built the Apple Store on experience, not commissions

Ron Johnson, the CEO of J.C. Penney and the former senior vice president for retail at Apple, ran a guest post detailing his Apple tenure over at the Harward Business Review blog, accompanying a monster interview which appears in the December 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review magazine.

Apple doesn’t owe its success in retail to shiny products, he said. “You don’t need to stock iPads to create an irresistible retail environment”, he said. “You have to create a store that’s more than a store to people”. Even though Apple products can be purchased for less elsewhere, people visit Apple’s stores for the experience, not products, he argued:

People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they’re willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better. That may sound hokey, but it’s true. Read more

Retail update: Redesigned Knox Street store re-opens Friday, new store launches in Spain’s tourist town of Marbella

As Apple’s former retail chief Ron Johnson sets its sights on re-inventing the shopping experience at the J.C. Penney department stores and the search for his replacement continues, the Cupertino, California-headquartered gadget designer isn’t resting on its laurels. Future plans call for continuation of an aggressive retail expansion that includes 40 new stores during fiscal 2012, thirty of them outside the United States. Read more