photo courtesy of REX USA/David Fisher.
This fall, when Angela Ahrendts announced that she was leaving her job as the CEO of Burberry to become Apple's Senior Vice President of Retail, many reacted with bewilderment. Not only was her jump from fashion to tech surprising, but the idea of anyone moving down the corporate ladder? Crazy.
But, according to a revealing new profile in Fast Company, the challenge of revitalizing Apple's mammoth retail business was one the ambitious merchandiser — and the savvy business woman — just couldn't ignore.
One look at Ahrendts' track record and it's easy to see why Apple decided to make the Indiana native its highest-ranking female executive. In her eight years as Burberry's boss, not only has she tripled the company's earnings, but she also transformed the luxury brand into a digital-savvy trailblazer, revamping its entire tech structure. Even when she was leading one of the world's most recognizable fashion houses, Ahrendts already had one foot in the tech pool.
On the surface, Apple's retail business is still booming, with an annual revenue of just over $20 billion. But, after opening up 26 new stores in 2013, its per-store numbers were stagnant. It will be up to Ahrendts to revamp the store designs and the customer service that were once company hallmarks, and the envy of the retail world. Improving customer service, in particular, will be one of Ahrendts primary goals. Echoing that sentiment was Apple CEO Tim Cook, who, in a company-wide email announcing Ahrendts hire, wrote that "she cares deeply about people and embraces our view that our most important resource and our soul is our people."
Ahrendts will also be tasked with merging Apple's brick-and-mortar retail division with its online sales division, echoing another one of her major innovations at Burberry. Whether Ahrendts lives up to the hype remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: The eyes of the tech and fashion industries will be watching her. The pressure is on. (Fast Company)