San Francisco, Oct. 15: Apple announced today that it hired Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of Burberry, the British luxury fashion company, as a member of its executive team.
The company said Ahrendts would serve in a newly created role as senior vice-president overseeing the strategy and operation of its retail and online stores. She will start working for Apple in the spring.
Ahrendts is Apple’s second big hire from the fashion industry amid reports that the company is readying an Internet-connected wristwatch. In the summer, the company hired Paul Deneve, the former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, the French fashion house, to work on special projects, reporting directly to Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive.
Apple’s retail stores have been crucial to its success. The company years ago abandoned trade shows because its retail stores worldwide became a better showcase for its new products. Asymco, a research firm, estimated that Apple’s stores bring in $13 million per store in revenue a quarter on average.
In a management shake-up last year, Apple fired its executive in charge of retail, John Browett. The move was not surprising to outsiders: Last August, the company publicly apologised for a plan by Browett to cut back on staffing at its stores.
In 2011, Ron Johnson, the former Apple executive in charge of retail, left the company to take the helm at JC Penney. It was a bad fit, and after 17 months, Johnson was pushed out of Penney.
Ahrendts’s role at Burberry will be filled by the company’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, Burberry said in a statement.
Before joining the British retailer, Ahrendts served in leadership roles at Liz Claiborne and Donna Karan International. She and Bailey have been working together at Burberry for nearly a decade, a period in which they transformed its image from stale and stodgy to sexy and chic.
“I am thrilled that Angela will be joining our team,” Cook said in a statement. “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.”
Ahrendts’s rein at the top of Burberry has been a rewarding one for shareholders. When she joined the company on July 1, 2006, the shares were trading around £4.30, or about $6.88 at current exchange rates. They closed London trading at £15.85, or about $25.32, yesterday, before the announcement of her departure.
As a sign that investors see her as a hard act to follow, Burberry shares fell more than 5 per cent at the opening of trading in London this morning, before easing back to a 4 per cent decline.
Ahrendts’s departure was announced as Burberry reported strong sales in its fiscal first half. The company said its sales rose 17 per cent to £694 million, or about $1.1 billion, in the six months till September 30, in line with market expectations.