Apple’s new retail boss ‘has her work cut out for her’ in bringing the spark back to its 500 stores
- Apple’s head of retail Angela Ahrendts left the company in April and was replaced by Deirdre O’Brien, previously Apple’s head of human resources.
- One former executive told Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman that O’Brien “has her work cut out for her.”
- Bloomberg reports that Apple’s stores have become a growing concern for the company as customers complain of long lines, long wait times, and overcrowding.
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Apple has a new head of retail, and employees are hoping she can bring its once-revered stores back to life.
In a new Bloomberg report, former and current employees at Apple explained how the company’s stores have suffered in recent years, pointing to changes implemented by Apple’s former head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, which they said, were detrimental to the customer experience.
Ahrendts’ replacement, Deirdre O’Brien, who was previously Apple’s head of human resources and has worked at the company for 30 years, recently stepped into the role and is prepping herself to take on this new challenge. She begins in earnest by opening Apple’s latest store on 11 May, an ambitious renovation of Carnegie Library in Washington D.C.
Former executives say she has her work cut out for her.
Long lines and overcrowding
Apple’s stores were once heralded as the pinnacle of sophisticated and sleek shopping but increasingly, customers have complained of long lines, long wait times, and overcrowding. Former employees told Bloomberg that changes implemented under Ahrendts are partly to blame.
Ahrendts, who previously hailed from Burberry, wanted to make the stores into luxury showrooms, eliminate lines, and create the feeling of a “Town Square” or places where customers could congregate.
“We want you to meet people at Apple,” she said in 2016. “See what’s happening.”
To do so, she removed the Genius Bars and replaced these with Genius Groves, areas that were focused on repairs and assistance, which didn’t involve lines. She removed checkouts and introduced a system where sales assistants would roam around the store armed with mobile devices for customers to make payments.
Other employees told Bloomberg that the quality of employees, who now number 70,000 in total, also slipped.
“Employees used to be very skilled,” one employee said. “When you came to Apple, you could walk in and talk to someone who happens to be a musician or videographer on the side, really knowledgeable. They hire really nice people now, but they are much less technical.”
According to Bloomberg, sales associates would have had three weeks to a month of training in the past. Today, they have about a week.
Apple was “trying to streamline things,” one employee told Bloomberg, “but in the process made things more difficult for some customers.”
“It was a wholesale leadership takeover by fashion industry insiders and agency people who had no idea what they were doing with Apple,” one former executive told Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman. “Most of the folks who knew better are long since gone. O’Brien has her work cut out for her.”
Some employees are now speculating whether O’Brien will look to the past to rejuvenate its stores, reinstating the genius bar and splitting the store into sections, to promote each of Apple’s services – Apple Music, Apple News+, for example.
And some believe that she is in a good position to achieve success. “Deirdre has a deep understanding of the stores,” another former executive told Bloomberg. “She’s just never been the face of them.”
Business Insider contacted Apple for comment. The company declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg, while Ahrendts didn’t respond to requests for comment.