Sources Describe Ahrendts’ Personality, Retail Goals

May 19, 2014

Just weeks into the official start as her term as Apple’s new Sr. VP Retail/On-Line Stores, Angela Ahrendts is impressing veteran employees as both warm and genuine, and focused on the goals of expanding retail in China, improving mobile commerce and revamping the retail stores’ customer experience. As told by 9to5mac.com, Ahrendts has been touring Apple stores in the San Francisco region to gain inside knowledge, and has been shuffling some of the executive team to better focus on the future. Employees who have met Ahrendts say she’s “honest,” “passionate” and “so Apple.” But insiders also report that she has specific goals for moving forward—improving telephone service, Personal Setup and the iPhone trade-in program. The article also makes some comparisons between Ahrendts and her predecessor John Browett, who was fired after less than a year. Read the entire 9to5mac article for additional insights.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Throw that ham May 19, 2014 at 2041

I feel hopeful. We’ve been adrift and unloved as employees for way too long.

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Bob Erran May 19, 2014 at 2251

Well, we’ve only been adrift and unloved the last 12 years. Retail is the redheaded step child. Practically contract workers. No other division (Hardware, Software, Sales, AppleCare, even IS&T) has their own employee handbook. Christ, the cooks at Cafe Macs get twice the sick time than we do, and we are shaking hands with 400 million people a year! Apple Online Store folks report to the same exec, and they get an extra vacation day every year, where retail has to wait 5 years for a bump (probably because over 2/3 of retail employees turn over in 5 years). I’ll give Ron Johnson credit, he loved his job, and he may have given Apple Retail the best of retail, but not the best of Apple. He didn’t think we were worth it.

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GoCatGo May 25, 2014 at 0600

I was hired to work in one of the first round of 16 Apple retail locations. Were were told that our contributions were every bit as significant as those of corporate employees; that Apple believed, one day soon, the vast majority of corporate employees would come to the company via Apple Retail; we were told “it’s not about selling computers, it’s about conversations with customers.” We were told a lot of things.

Had this been any other company, I would have been quite skeptical … but this was Apple, the “Steve Jobs is back” Apple. I really thought I would never work anywhere else.

I get a little weary of hearing how Browett had completely altered the dynamic; yes, his tenure was a disaster, but there was a sea change well before he arrived on the scene.

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VoiceOfReality May 21, 2014 at 1233

@Bob Erran: your final remark exposes how little you actually know.

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Bob Erran May 21, 2014 at 1757

@VoR: Really? The stores grew exponentially in traffic, but arithmetically in staff for ten years under his tenure. Pay scales fell off, and for all the talk that man made of “careers” at Apple, he personally built a culture where less then 1% of internal candidates would have growth opportunities. Add to that, in 10 years, we never reached benefit parity with ANY other branch in our own company. He talked a lot, and I’ll bet he even cried often, but his TEN YEARS of inaction showed his TRUE attitude. He smiled at us with his popped collar speaking to how much he loved working with us, but with a stroke of a pen, he ensured his employees who’s families face illness get half the sick time of their “peers.” He eliminated the quarterly bonus program.

Don’t misunderstand me, I only met him once many years ago, and I honestly don’t think poorly of him. My family simply would not exist without him. But it’s obvious that if he thought at all about my family or my coworkers’ families, it’s that we weren’t worth equal footing with the rest of the company. At some point a conscious decision was made to create a separate HR policy, and benefits from our book were only subtracted.

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VoiceOfReality May 22, 2014 at 1856

How did pay rates fall off? Why should hourly retail employees have the exact same benefits as full time, salaried corporate employees?

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Bob Erran May 23, 2014 at 0900

Pay scales have slid for years. The Genius starting pay has been falling for a decade. That used to be a real career you could raise a family one. When I FIRST hired on, I bought a condo at the height of the bubble, now I don’t know any new Genius in the last 4 years (external hires or FRS promotions) who can afford their own apartment on their pay rate. (and remember, Browett lowered hours but RAISED pay levels when he came on board). And you can’t deny the bonus cut. They gave us a 1 time pay increase of 7% but at the time bonuses were making up 10-20% of my income depending on the quarter!

Add to that, Apple Retail dominated/decimated every other retailer in sales per square foot nearly every quarter for at least 8 years of RonJon’s reign, dancing with Tiffany’s for the lead spot. Neither staffing nor annual increases rose to match that.

And as for the benefits, time-off when you are sick is hardly a fringe benefit. It’s a quality of life concern. When the people shaking hands with your customers in the most crowded and germ infested quarters are earning $1billion a quarter in revenue for your bottom line, only get half as much time to deal with illness as the people sitting in a call center or data center, you’ve screwed up. Unless the plan is that you can fire them from their “careers” for failing to meet the corporate attendance policy guidelines, in which case Ron Johnson was an evil genius! And honestly, I don’t think there is a single mean bone in that guys body!

The body of evidence, his documented actions and decisions, points to the fact that he just didn’t care. And I never said he had to. But it’s not like he was a sports fan cheering from the sidelines, he WAS both the founder and head of retail for 10 years. Everything I’ve pointed out, he had to sign off on, or he put the person who did decide in charge. He actively lowered the standard of living of his employee’s families for both current and future employees during his tenure both financially through the pay structure and institutionally by creating a separate but unequal benefits package from the rest of the company, and created a culture where opportunities for advancement were nil. These are not bad things for a company. But to Throw the Ham’s comment, we’ve always been unloved.

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GoCatGo May 25, 2014 at 0603

I disagree. For the most part, I find Bob’s comments (above and below) to be spot-on.

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Frmr Spclst May 22, 2014 at 0509

I’m excited for Ahrendts’s arrival. She’s shown at Burberry how she regards the shopping experience as a major piece of a company’s brand. She’s also shown she regards technology as an enhancement to a person-to-person experience and not a replacement for it.

To Bob Erran’s comments: While I can’t say I agree with all his conclusions, especially those about Ron Johnson’s state of mind, the facts of the HR policies which he cites are correct. Part of what makes the treatment of retail employees is that the following two statements are both true, but seem to be in conflict: Apple Retail is more than other retail. Apple Retail is less than other Apple.

I don’t think it’s on Ahrendts’s agenda to change this, nor should it be. Apple Retail has come to more closely resemble other retail, and that trend isn’t going to reverse. However, with a new SVP of Retail who not only has chief executive experience, but also people seem to like and want to include, Apple Retail’s role can be part of the initial plans and not an afterthought, as it often seems to be.

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Jn42 May 22, 2014 at 1109

As ‘cooler’ is Ahrendts seems compared to Browett regarding tentative retail strategies – I think that people are forgetting that retail is just retail – regardless of the company. Crappy hours, working weekends, blackout dates, etc. Apple retail will never be the same as corporate – that’s why there are two sections in the jobs portal for crying out loud – otherwise it would be more seamless.

While I have been fortunate enough to find greener pastures – I still have friends working for the stores with hopes of moving up position/pay-wise in the retail segment… but they are still in either the same role or received a meager bump up to something like FRS. I love Apple and an optimistic about the outlook for the company as a whole – but retail is what it is… but unless they open REAL opportunities for growth/transition into the corporate level there will NEVER be a change. Truth.

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