Angela Ahrendts, one of Apple’s newest executives, finished her first full year working at the company in April.
As Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online sales, the former Burberry CEO is in a position that some may call intimidating.
Not only was Ahrendts in charge of brainstorming how to sell the Apple Watch, a brand new product category for the company, but she also had to win over Apple’s retail employees after the company’s former retail boss John Browett reduced hours and cut back on new hires.
We spoke to multiple people in and close to the company about Ahrendt.
Here’s what we learned:
Employees really like her weekly videos. Multiple sources told us that employees seem to be happy with her tenure at the company thus far.
They particularly like that she keeps retail employees informed and encouraged by sending out video messages to all retail staffers every week. These videos are stored inside an app that you can only access within the store when you’re connected to Apple’s servers, and Ahrendts films them from wherever she is in the world.
Employees say the videos feel unscripted and natural. One insider said Ahrendts is personal like Ron Johnson, who helped build the Apple Store and previously led retail efforts, but even more so.
“She’s good in our eyes,” another retail employee said.
There’s been a big push to bring more of the retail experience online. “Angela has been trying to put a lot of focus on online integrations into the store as well,” a person familiar with Apple’s retail plans said.
This focus started with the Apple Watch launch, but it’s still being emphasised in Apple stores. To make the online experience better, Apple is considering extending the virtual personal setup option from the Apple Watch to other products.
During staff meetings, Apple retail teams at one store have been discussing ideas to make it so that you can order a product online from the store, then set it up from the comfort of your own home, one employee told us. It’s part of an initiative Apple is calling “Customer at the Center,” this person said.
“They want us to remind people that the Apple Store app is available and a great way to shop, but I think the adoption has been fairly slow,” a separate source said.
Future product launches will not be like the Apple Watch. Although there’s a focus on ordering online and trying products before you buy them, future product launches won’t be handled in the way the Apple Watch was.
With the Apple Watch, Apple showcased the product in stores and made it available to order online before stocking it for sale in brick-and-mortar locations. Apple retail employees were told in a video memo that the Apple Watch launch was the only one that would be addressed in that way, one source said.
Employees generally feel like the Apple Watch launch was handled well, but there was some confusion. A couple of sources said that it seemed like the Apple Watch launch went smoothly, while two other retail sources said there were a few hiccups.
One former Apple retail employee, who still speaks with current employees, heard that the staff had expected more people to come in and try on the watch when Apple opened its try-on stations in April. “The people that did come in were disappointed because they couldn’t really try it on before they pre-ordered it,” this person said.
Another source said that Apple had over-anticipated the number of customers that would come in to try on the watch, and assigned too many workers to man the try-on stations that day.
She’s making it easier for retail employees to get their foot in the door in corporate. Apple has a program that allows retail employees to work in the corporate offices in Cupertino when the team needs help with projects. It’s sort of like an internship — you work for the same wage you earn as a retail employee, but you get to work on a temporary project on Apple’s corporate team. It’s more for the experience, and it could lead to a position at Apple if the company feels like you’re valuable, one person said. It’s helpful for Apple because retail employees work with customers every day and have a better idea of what’s important to the customer.
This program has been around for a while, but since Ahrendts took over more retail employees have been participating in it. Previously, Apple’s corporate team would only seek out help from retail when they needed assistance on a project, but one employee said it seems like Ahrendts is actively trying to get retail more involved.
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