New Apple Retail CEO Angela Ahrendts Profiled


The spring of 2014 will be a crucial time for Apple: that’s when former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts takes up her position as the head of retail. But who is this Angela Ahrendts who will lead Apple’s Retail Stores? Fast Company has the details.

While the Apple Store’s annual revenue is more than six times Burberry’s, and its 30,000-staff is three times as large, on the revenue side the picture doesn’t look so bright. Per-store revenue has been flat, and, more importantly, they haven’t progressed in terms of customer experience during the past five years. And as a long-term member of the retail team speaking with Fast Company said, “If you’re not reinventing your experience every five years, you’re behind the curve.”

But then the moment arrived: Apple has proudly announced that it had lured away Angela Ahrendts, the Burberry executive that lead the fashion company for more than eight years. As it turns out, Angela was a front-row-of-the-class kind of student. She used to speak often about the values she was taught by her parents, which, by the way, helped her reach merchandiser status at Donna Karan.

She moved to London in 2006 to lead Burberry, and started talking about culture and brand at a time when the whole business felt “fragmented and siloed”. And she built the Burberry brand around two keywords: empathy and trust.

Ive may have a kindred spirit in Ahrendts. At Burberry, Ahrendts–who worked retail during college, selling records at Musicland in Muncie Mall–has proved a master of the gentle sell. With Bailey, she has spearheaded storytelling that creates a halo around Bur­berry and technology that gives customers shopping experiences at every price point, even if they might never spend a penny. For instance, the Art of the Trench website is Bur­berry’s selfie central, where those who have coats can show off how they wear them and those who want them can imagine which of these people (thousands have uploaded photos so far) they would like to be.

This alchemic mix of accessibility and aspiration, mass market and luxury, is what Ahrendts cultivated so well at Burberry–and what she will need to repeat at Apple.

Ahrendts will need to bring her “whole mind” and more to meet the expectations. She will need all her skills, expertise, conviction about the possibilities of technology, and her knowledge of emerging markets, but more importantly: her gut.

“All I have are my instincts,” says Ahrendts. “They’ve never failed me.” When she’s talking about Burberry, that sounds like an explanation. Put it in the context of Apple, and it could be a promise. But it needs to be a prophecy.