Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has recently sat down with Fast Company for a brief interview in which she discusses what her first two years at Apple have been like. Ahrendts previously was the CEO of high-end fashion retailer Burberry. Ahrendts notes of the strategies she’s employed to improve Apple’s retail chain, including her strategy of treating them just as she would treat an executive.
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Ahrendts first notes that during her first six months on the job at Apple, she was able to travel to 40 different markets and spend time with retail leaders in each. She described that Apple’s retail stores are “uniting people and getting them to collaborate.” Having that power, Ahrednts explained, just by itself is “empowering” to her.
Perhaps most notably, Ahrendts said that in 2015, Apple retail had the highest retention rate it has ever had at 81 percent. She explained that she doesn’t see retail employees as simply retail employees, but rather she sees them as executives that are “touching the customers with the products that Jony and team took years to build.” This comment really shines on how important Ahrendts believes Apple’s oft-praised retail chain is to the company:
We just ended the year with the highest retention rates we’ve ever had: 81%. And the feedback [from Apple Store employees is that it’s] because they feel connected. They feel like one Apple. They don’t feel like they’re just somebody over here working with customers. I don’t see them as retail employees. I see them as executives in the company who are touching the customers with the products that Jony [Ive] and the team took years to build. Somebody has to deliver it to the customer in a wonderful way.
Ahrendts also noted that one thing she noticed during her first month at Apple is that the culture within the company is strong. The executive explained that everyone working at Apple is driven to “change people’s lives.” It goes deeper than just the products, too, with Tim Cook’s strategy of being involved in societal issues and leaving the world better than they found it:
The thing I didn’t know before I came in—a month in, I told my husband, “I now know why this is one of the most successful companies on the planet: Because the culture is so strong. The pride, the protection, the values.” The company was built to change people’s lives. That foundation, that service mentality, that drive to continue to change lives—that is a core value in the company. And Tim [Cook] then has added his on: He says it’s also our responsibility to leave it better than we found it. So you have these two amazing pillars and a culture built around that. It’s the same in retail and in [Cupertino]. That is the underlying mission, and how could you know that unless you’re inside? But it is deeper than you would ever imagine.
You can read the full interview from Fast Company here.