Angela Ahrendts: Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s New Style Maven

  • Share
  • Read Later
Simon Dawson / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Apple announced today that it is hiring Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to take on a new position that combines oversight of Apple’s retail and online stores. The move is seen, in part, as an effort by Apple to bolster its position in China, a market that Ahrendts successfully navigated as the head of the British luxury retailer Burberry.

A role leading the retail effort at one of the world’s most profitable companies will provide both opportunities and challenges for Ahrendts. Apple’s history of retail innovation under former retail head Ron Johnson—who pioneered the now famous genius bars and the sleek, stripped-down ambiance of the Apple Store—gives Ahrendts a launching pad for expanding the company’s success.

But since Johnson’s departure, Apple has struggled to find the right replacement and get a strong foothold in emerging markets. In other words, Ahrendts has her work cut out for her. Here are five things you should know about Apple’s new retail guru:

1.  Apple will be a homecoming for Ahrendts: She may be known for running Britain’s most famous luxury fashion house, but Ahrendts hails from small-town America, having been born in New Palestine, Indiana.

2. She revived one of the world’s most storied brands: Ahrendts arrived to Burberry from Liz Claiborne at during a time when the 157-year-old luxury retailer was struggling to maintain a cohesive worldwide image for its brand. But through innovative use of tech-based marketing schemes like its “Art of the Trench” campaign, Ahrendts was able to position the company well for a boom in luxury consumption across the world, especially in Asia. The result? Annual sales have more than doubled since 2007.

(MORE: Foroohar: Washington Dysfunction Is Hurting GDP Growth)

3. Ahrendts comes from the fashion world, but is tech savvy: The fashion world has a reputation for being insular and wedded to tradition, but Ahrendts was not afraid to shake things up when she arrived at Burberry. Her turnaround strategy involved heavy investment in corporate enterprise software from Salesforce and SAP which enabled sales associates to better understand their customers’ purchase history and Burberry-related social media activity.

4. That includes an enthusiastic embrace of social media: One of Ahrendts more successful ideas was to market heavily to millennials, understanding that high-net-worth individuals in emerging markets were much younger than those in markets such as the U.S. Ahrendts understood that to reach that cohort, you had to invest heavily in digital media, which means having a significant social media presence.

5. All that success means she won’t come cheap: Burberry’s revival, both in terms of sales growth and stock performance, has allowed Ahrendts to pull in $27 million per year in total compensation. That makes her one of the best-paid executives in the world—not to mention the single best-paid executive on the FTSE 100 index, a compendium of Britain’s largest public companies.