Ahead of her appearance at Bloomberg’s ‘Year Ahead’ business summit tomorrow, Apple’s SVP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts has today made an appearance at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival in New York City. Ahrendts sat down with Fast Company Editor at Large Rick Tetzei to discuss her role at Apple since joining the company in 2014…

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Ahrendts first noted that when she originally joined Apple, she spent the first 6 months on the job visiting the company’s retail locations in 40 markets and listening to the thoughts and opinions of retail employees. Ahrendts said that more than three billion people visit Apple.com’s online store, while 390 million people visit Apple’s retail locations each year. She noted that Jony Ive designed the Apple Store tables and that they will never change, “no matter what.”

The Apple executive also added some color on the company’s decision to make itself part of social problems, something Tim Cook has done a lot of since he became CEO. Ahrendts pointed out that “big isn’t good unless big does good,” meaning that if Apple isn’t voicing its opinion on important issues, then it’s not a good thing that the company is so large and powerful.

Ahrendts said that working at Apple allows her to do so much more than working at Burberry. At Burberry, Ahrendts said she was “touching one percent of the one percent,” while at Apple, she can reach a much larger audience and manage a much larger team of employees. Regarding her relationship with employees, Ahrendts said that there’s a “pretty flat organization” and that retail staffers often email her directly with feedback. Likewise, her “3 things in under 3 minutes” videos allow her to quickly connect with her 60k retail employees.

Ahrendts also noted that even part-time employees receive Apple stock because it’s easier and more cost-effective to retain and make employees happy than it is to hire new ones. She also noted that Apple measures employee happiness three times per year. The executive said that Apple has an 81 percent retention rate when it comes to retail employees.

Regarding Black Friday, a retail tradition that Apple largely dropped last year, Ahrendts explained that Apple backed away from the annual tradition because “being good to your employees will always be good for business.”

Heading into the future, Ahrendts said Apple is currently halfway done with merging its retail locations with its online operations. Furthermore, China is still a huge market of interest for the company. Ahrendts noted that by 2025, twenty of the world’s top cities will be in China, hence why Apple is investing so much into the country.

Image via Harry McCracken 

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