Chief of Apple Stores Is Leaving After 5 Years in the Job

Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry chief employed by Apple 5 years in the past to supervise its shops, mentioned Tuesday that she is going to go away the firm in April.

The departure is an uncommon transfer for a prime government at Apple, which is dealing with retail challenges as gross sales in China have dropped and iPhone gross sales have turned sluggish.

Ms. Ahrendts, 58, was one of Apple’s most outstanding hires when the Silicon Valley firm lured her from Burberry with an preliminary $73 million pay bundle in 2014. She had spent eight years as Burberry’s chief government and was credited with increasing it into a global style model.

Over 5 years, Ms. Ahrendts was amongst Apple’s highest-paid executives, incomes greater than $170 million, in line with securities filings.

Apple mentioned in a information launch that she was leaving “for new personal and professional pursuits.”

One of Ms. Ahrendts’s main targets was to enhance Apple’s on-line retail operation so it was as admired as its glossy, minimalist shops. She usually succeeded, permitting prospects, for instance, to order on-line and decide up gadgets in a retailer, mentioned Neil Cybart, an unbiased Apple analyst.

Mr. Cybart mentioned that Apple’s shops remained amongst the most profitable in the world by sq. foot, and that visitors to them had been regular.

“I don’t necessarily see any huge red flags,” he mentioned whereas discussing the circumstances of Ms. Ahrendts’s exit.

Under Ms. Ahrendts, Apple began providing extra public talks, concert events and seminars at its shops in an try to attract in prospects who weren’t essentially in the marketplace for a brand new system.

“It’s funny. We actually don’t call them stores anymore,” Ms. Ahrendts mentioned at an Apple occasion in 2017. “We call them town squares.” She was later criticized for suggesting that a store with $1,000 products could be a community gathering place.

Ms. Ahrendts said in a statement that “the last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career.”

Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s human resources chief, will take over management of the retail operation in addition to her current duties, the company said. She has worked for Apple for three decades.

Ms. O’Brien, 52, is a surprising choice as the new retail chief, given her already heavy load handling human resources for more than 100,000 employees. She will add responsibilities that include “strategy, real estate and development, and operations of Apple’s physical stores, Apple’s online store and contact centers,” according to Apple’s website.

Apple was probably willing to give her such a large role to keep retail in the hands of a company veteran, Mr. Cybart said.

Apple operates 506 stores on five continents, about a 25 percent increase since Ms. Ahrendts was hired. Mr. Cybart said Apple had recently increased its focus on adding stores in prominent locations in major cities like Chicago and Milan.

Two Wedbush Securities analysts, Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe, said in a research note that one of Ms. O’Brien’s focuses would be stimulating demand in China, where the retail experience is important.

They said they were encouraged that Apple had chosen Ms. O’Brien over an outside hire, given the company’s recent struggles.

“While the timing of this departure is a head scratcher, change could be a good thing for Apple, as the last year has been nothing to write home about,” they wrote.

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