Apple Bets on Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to Burnish Retail Shine

Apple hires Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of luxury goods company Burberry, to be its new SVP of retail and online stores.

Apple will be relying on Ahrendts’ expertise to improve lackluster Chinese sales of the iPhone 5C, and she will be Apple’s best hope for retail since Ron Johnson left in 2011. Photo: leicorbi/ Flickr

Angela Ahrendts, chief executive of Burberry, is leaving the luxury goods firm to join technology giant Apple.

Ahrendts will join Apple in the spring from Burberry, where she serves as CEO and has led the company through a period of outstanding global growth. Her approach was to embrace digital innovation, build a strong online business, and tap Chinese and Latin American markets.

In her time at Burberry, she revitalized the luxury fashion brand by using social media and digital marketing to expand its presence in Asia. Since she took the helm in 2006, Burberry’s market value has increased from about $3.3 billion to $11 billion, reports the Time. And during her seven years in the top job, Burberry’s revenues have nearly tripled and shares rose more than 300%.

Prior to Burberry, she was executive vice president at Liz Claiborne Inc., and earlier in her career she served as president of Donna Karan International.

In hiring Ahrendts to direct strategy, expansion and operation of Apple’s retail and online stores, Chief Executive Tim Cook has set her the task of bolstering iPad and iPhone sales, and returning some lustre to a brand that has not launched a major new device in almost four years. One of her main challenges will be to boost Apple’s sales in China, its second-largest market.

With this hire, Apple isn’t just filling a job vacancy. This is a statement. Ahrendts is an internationally respected merchant at one of the world’s prestige brands.

She’s social media savvy and proved it with the company’s Spring/Summer 2013 teaser video starring Romeo Beckham went viral.

“I am thrilled that Angela will be joining our team,” said Cook. “She shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience. She has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record.”

“I am profoundly honored to join Apple in this newly created position next year, and very much look forward to working with the global teams to further enrich the consumer experience on and offline,” said Ahrendts.

“I have always admired the innovation and impact Apple products and services have on people’s lives and hope in some small way I can help contribute to the company’s continued success and leadership in changing the world.”

Ahrendts is the first woman to join Apple’s executive team in nearly a decade and will take on an expanded role, overseeing its vast network of stores that employs about 42,400 people and online teams. Apple has not disclosed how much she will be paid.

Her departure will leave only two female chief executives in the FTSE 100 group of companies, easyJet boss Carolyn McCall and Imperial Tobacco chief Alison Cooper.

In response to the news, Burberry’s shares fell 6% on the London Stock Exchange. The firm today revealed 14% growth in total sales to £1.03 billion in the six months to the end of September. Burberry saw double-digit retail growth across Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, says the Huff Post.

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