An updated entry in the LinkedIn resumé of a Levi Strauss & Co. executive was the only clue for outsiders that Apple had added a new employee to its retail store team. Just as thin was information about what role Enrique Atienza will play in managing the company’s worldwide retail team, which has been operating without a top executive for almost 10 months. A Levi Strauss spokesperson confirmed that Atienza had left the company last month, but Apple declined to explain his position within its company. He will likely occupy a VP or Director position, but not become the retail Sr. VP. That position went vacant last October when Ron Johnson left to become CEO of JC Penney. Atienza, 41, had been with Levi for the past three years, most recently as the Sr. VP Retail Americas and COE Global Store Operations and Training. He previously worked for The Walt Disney Company in its retail store division. He was born and educated in Spain, but now lives in San Francisco. Update: Within 24 hours of this story, tipsters said Atienza is not the company’s choice for Sr. VP Retail. Instead, he will manage the region that includes the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Utah and Nevada. He will report to Steve Cano, who has taken on a wider role from his Sr. Director International Retail position since Johnson left in 2011.
Atienza’s hiring last month is ironic in two ways: Apple has announced it will buy out Levi’s lease on a prime corner in downtown San Francisco, demolish the existing Levi’s retail store, build its own glass-encased retail store, and then close the current San Francisco store two blocks away.
Secondly, two years ago Levi settled a $1 million complaint by employees who claimed the company misclassified them as exempt employees, and were therefore not paid for certain types of work they performed. Apple is in the midst of its own lawsuit filed by two employees who claim they weren’t paid overtime for being subjected to security bag checks after clocking out.
A comparison between Apple and Levi spells out the differences: Levi sells its merchandise through a network of 50,000 stores in 110 countries, including 511 company-operated stores in 32 countries. Apple’s network of stores now totals 411 and spans just 12 countries.
Financially, the difference is bigger, and in the other direction. Apple retail revenue was $18.8 billion for fiscal 2012, while Levi’s retail and on-line stores generated $966 million. Levi does not report the retail chain’s profit/loss.
Levi opened 56 new stores during fiscal 2012, but also closed 43 stores. Apple opened 34 stores in the same period, and closed none.
While working at Levi, Atienza was the frequent spokesperson for the company’s many charitable and community service programs, including the White Knot Campaign in Support of Marriage Equality. In an interview, Atienza explained, “Levi Strauss & Co. aims to influence how people around the world perceive and treat others in an effort to make sure that the workplace is always a place where discrimination is not tolerated. By sharing some of our experiences, positions history, we hope more corporations and people will join the fight for equality.”
Levi also supports various environmental causes, including working to reduce pollution and conserve water in its product manufacturing. The company is proud of its support of volunteerism and community partnerships among its employees. In fact, Levi shuts down one day a year to allow employees to take part in community service projects. For its dedication, Levi has received several industry awards over the years for its community involvement.
Atienza’s personal retail philosophy is difficult to discern because he’s kept a low profile while at Levi.
However, during a presentation at this year’s National Retail Federation conference, Atienza provided some guidance for international retailers. “Strive for global consistency when it comes to layout and navigation, while adapting location strategy, channel strategy and hours of operation to the local market. For branding, strive for a consistent brand core globally while adapting size, color and quality to the local market. For team building, develop a globally consistent hiring model, dress code and career development model while adapting your full-time/part-time mix, compensation and incentive plans to the local market.”
As for company processes, he advised, “Develop internally-consistent, brand-right processes while adapting locally to cultural norms relative to dealing with consumers.”
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