While everyone thought Apple would have interesting things to say (and debut) on October 22nd, no one expected the announcement of Angela Ahrendts as Apple’s new Sr. VP of Retail Operations (starting sometime in Spring 2014). Needless to say, the news caused a title wave of posts in the blogosphere, including:
–Apple and China (via Daring Fireball)
–Five videos: Tim Cook taps Burberry’s CEO to run Apple retail (via Apple 2.0)
–Apple’s Angela Ahrendts: What the pundits are saying (via Apple 2.0)
–Can Angela and Tim Create Apple 3.0 — Or Not? (via Steve Tappin on LinkedIN)
Not surprising being the Apple geek that I am, I too jumped into the fray:
–Apple hires Burberry CEO to head its retail division (via the LA Times)
When I saw the news Tuesday morning, I put a few thoughts together:
(1) Apple really needs help in the retail dept – since Apple fired John Browett in October 2012, they have been leaderless in the retail area. Ron Johnson made the Apple stores what they are but there has been little to no innovation on that front since Johnson left 2011.
(2) Angela Ahrendts knows technology – There is not another luxury retailer on the planet that targets their customers better through digital channels.
(3) Angela Ahrendts knows upscale – Apple is not a mid-tier player. Apple does not want to target the mass market. Apple likes to play in the premium space – premium customers.
(4) Angela Ahrendts knows China – and this item BY FAR is the most important. Apple needs a major push in China. They have a paltry number of Apple retail stories in China and they have been slow to add more (and no one knows why). Apple is on the verge of signing a deal with China’s largest telecom carrier – China Mobile – and when that happens, suddenly Apple will have access to 740 million customers to whom they have been locked out from.
In summary, this fills two MAJOR holes in Apple’s overall strategy – (1) China and (2) retail. I’d call it a bigger grand slam than David Ortiz’s in Boston on Sunday night. And in the culture of Lean IN, she’ll be an incredible female executive to the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer in the Valley. Apple does not have a female executive in upper management/Sr. VP level (Angela will report directly to CEO Tim Cook) and Apple only has one female board member (Andrea Jung).
I’d say it’s a win-win-win all around.
Something to think about again in early 2014 when Angela lands in Cupertino…
Associate Professor of Marketing
Stillman School of Business
Seton Hall University