LOS ANGELES—It wasn’t that long ago for Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts was being talked about as a potential successor to current CEO Tim Cook.
The former Burberry’s CEO joined Apple five years ago to take over its retail division. On Tuesday, Apple announced she was out of a job, with such little fanfare that the headline of the release was about her successor, Deirdre O’Brien, being named the Senior Vice President of Retail + People.
O’Brien is a 31-year Apple veteran who is currently in charge of human resources.
In the release, Ahrendts said she was leaving Apple for “new personal and professional pursuits.”
Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, said the move is a big “surprise,” considering how many thought she was the “heir apparent” to Cook. “But if you look at the success of the retail side, even though she’s a retail legend, it’s been rocky. If Apple was going to make a change, this is a good time to do it rather than six months from now, when it will launch new iPhones.”
After years of runaway sales success for the iPhone, Apple’s holiday quarter found a 16 percent year over year sales dip for the once iconic product. Apple has blamed the results of changing conditions in China and a fluctuating dollar in many markets.
It’s not that the retail stores have done poorly, says Ives, but they’ve haven’t grown sales either, says Ives.
“Someone new could be a good thing, given the lackluster performance we’ve seen over the last six to nine months,” he adds.
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Just last week, Ahrendts introduced several new programs for the store, a series of classes called “Today at Apple,” that look to bring education to consumers, as a way of hooking them deeper into the Apple ecosystem.
Apple has 506 stores and recently opened a big, splashy one in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées. In an interview with USA TODAY in November, she said Apple was one-third of the way through upgrading the retail stores into “gathering spaces, where people can come in, get service and support and learn about everything they would do on their devices.”
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