Published: Thu, February 07, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Apple Announces Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts Departing in April

Apple Announces Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts Departing in April

Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail and online stores at Apple, in 2017.

Apple said Ms Ahrendts will leave the company in April "for new personal and professional pursuits".

Deirdre O'Brien, soon to be Apple's Senior Vice President of Retail + People.

The chief executive, Tim Cook, warmly acknowledged the former Burberry boss's departure, saying: "I want to thank Angela for inspiring and energising our teams over the past five years".

At Apple, she overhauled the company's retail operations, redesigning stores into meeting places with more open floor plans and a focus on pushing customer service "geniuses" out from behind formal counters. She has been an Apple employee for three decades.

Ahrendts leaves as Apple is starting to see iPhone sales growth stall.

The departure of Ahrendts, Apple's top female executive, was a surprise. "This is not going to be someone easily replaced".

Ahrendts joined Apple right at right the time it was launching the Apple Watch, a product that was heavily marketed as much as a fashion accessory as it was a smartwatch and health tracker. Average sales per square foot rose from $4,640 in 2013 to more than $5,600, according to EMarketer. But recent product launches and store events have been underwhelming, he said, mirroring the company's overall challenge of offering customers innovative gadgets when the bar has already been set quite high.

"Her focus was integrating the online and offline experience, which in some ways took the focus away from an excellent in-store experience", said Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures. "The brick-and-mortar store still has friction around the consumer experience, and Apple is committed to making it better".

Those tactics may not have gelled with the retail environment Ahrendts tried to create. The company now operates 506 retail stores on five continents and 35 online stores.

Last week, Ahrendts told Vogue magazine there are "things about the fashion industry that I miss". Ahrendts will be replaced by a 30-year veteran of the company in Deirdre O'Brien who now heads up the HR portfolio. This includes Apple's chief operating officer, Jeff Williams who rose to the position in 2015.

Mr Cook said: "She has been a positive, transformative force, both for Apple's stores and the communities they serve". I am grateful to Angela for all she's done for Apple, and I'm looking forward to what Deirdre will bring to her new role. He departed after less than a year as part of a larger management reorganization by Cook. O'Brien will assume the role after after more than three decades with the company.

Her role as "veep of people" is understood to have been Cook's idea.

By aligning retail and HR under one leader, maybe O'Brien will be able to identify more quickly anyone who doesn't have the right sort of soul, the Apple soul, and can despatch them more efficiently with her HR hat on.

Per SEC filings, Ahrendts was also an expensive hire.

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