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A new profile of Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has been posted today by BuzzFeed News, providing a look into Ahrendts' move from Burberry, the inspiration for her approach to retail from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and her partnership with Apple design chief Jony Ive. Ahrendts has been in the spotlight lately following her presentation during the iPhone X keynote event in September, where she explained Apple's new retail initiative, Today at Apple, and provided a sneak peek into upcoming locations around the world.

Ahrendts said that her approach to the new retail strategy began with an inspiration from Steve Jobs, comparing the brick-and-mortar locations as the retail team's "hardware" and the inner workings of the store -- like Today at Apple programs -- as the "software."

angela-buzzfeed-image-2.jpg
Image captured by Hoss Ghertassi via BuzzFeed News

Ahrendts's approach to retail harkens back to the late founder Steve Jobs' insistence on building "the whole widget" -- in other words, constructing the look and feel of a device, as well as making the operating system and the processor that runs it, in order to fully optimize -- and control -- the entire user experience.

"This is our hardware," she said, pointing to the Indianapolis store's glass doors and indoor ficuses. "Then you say, 'What's the software of the store? How do we turn it on?' Because this unto itself is magnificent, but it's not just what it is, it's what it does," referring to the new Today at Apple program, under which locations host events like photography workshops and coding classes.
Ahrendts has tweaked parts of Apple's retail "software" by changing employee t-shirts to a softer material, and removing lanyards so employees "make a human connection" with customers. One former Apple Genius said that while removing lanyards made uniforms "cleaner," the high amount of customers visiting Apple every day is a "reality of retail" that made connecting with every customer difficult.

When she was creating her strategy, Ahrendts discussed the design and look of the new Apple locations with Jony Ive, who was said to have told Ahrendts, "Don't mess with the tables," referring to the iconic wooden tables that line every Apple store. Ive further described these tables as "sacred."
Before embarking on the redesign, Ahrendts consulted creative chief Ive, whom Steve Jobs once called his "spiritual partner." "In one of those very early conversations," Ahrendts recalled, Ive "said, 'Don't mess with the tables. They're the same tables we used in our design studio and I love that it goes from the studio to the stores.' He said, 'They're sacred.'"
Ahrendts also recalled the company's expansion into China, where she asked all United States retail employees if they would be interested to move overseas and assist in running new stores in China. The executive said she was expecting 100 or 200 responses, but ended up with 2,000, half of which ended up moving overseas with plans to stay for between 1 and 5 years. Those who remain in the U.S. said that under Ahrendts' leadership, worker benefits have improved.

angela-buzzfeed-image.jpg
Image captured by Hoss Ghertassi via BuzzFeed News

All of the employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News agree that Ahrendts improved their benefits soon after she joined in May 2014. For example, Ahrendts introduced restricted stock units, or gifted Apple stock (which could previously be purchased at a discount), that vests every three years. She also extended school tuition reimbursement to part-time workers. Most said they were happy with their pay, which ranges from $17 to $20 an hour for non-Genius roles and up to $30 an hour for Geniuses.
Still, some employees have described their work as starting to feel "increasingly corporate" under Ahrendts. One technical specialist stated that Apple retail "now feels more like a Circuit City, a Best Buy" because of increased micromanagement, rising repair prices, a focus on moving customers in and out of the store as fast as possible, and an "emphasis" on attracting business accounts.

The rest of the profile on Ahrendts covers much of the same ground as BuzzFeed's iPhone 8 launch video about Apple's "war room," as well as an interview with CEO Tim Cook and Ahrendts posted yesterday. In that interview, Ahrendts said it was "fake news...silly" that she was being groomed as future Apple CEO. Cook then said, "I see my role as CEO to prepare as many people as I can to be CEO, and that's what I'm doing."

Check out the full BuzzFeed News article on Angela Ahrendts here.

Article Link: Angela Ahrendts' Makeover of Apple Retail Outlined in New Profile
 
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filmantopia

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Feb 5, 2010
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With my time working there from 2007-2011, I can say that there was always this internal myth of things "getting worse" with increased micromanagement, but in my experience there was never an obvious change in that direction. It's all about people's way of perceiving things. The way for example, people have been saying Apple software has been "going downhill" for 15 years.

We just kind of amplify our perceived problems of the moment and look at the past with rose colored glasses.
 
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Naimfan

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Some of the negatives are inevitable results of scaling up as much as Apple has.

Generally, I think it's positive for Apple's bottom line, and ever so slightly negative for the consumer. The fact it isn't more negative toward the consumer is a minor miracle, and a testament to Ahrendts and all involved in Apple stores.
 
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mazz0

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Mar 23, 2011
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I still think they should embed the cables in the legs of those tables. I know you could argue that it's honest design, not concealing things, like the notch in the iPhone X, and I often agree with that, but not in this case - it just looks so messy. And it's not like Apple don't usually conceal wiring - what about all the stuff hidden between the glass panels in the SJ Theatre?
 
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Chupa Chupa

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Jul 16, 2002
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Bolded for emphasis

Still, some employees have described their work as starting to feel "increasingly corporate" under Ahrendts. One technical specialist stated that Apple retail "now feels more like a Circuit City, a Best Buy" because of increased micromanagement, rising repair prices, a focus on moving customers in and out of the store as fast as possible, and an "emphasis" on attracting business accounts.

Of recent when I was exploring which iPad to buy I spent a fair amount of time at various Apple Stores playing with the iPads. Never did I feel pressured to do anything. I was asked if I had any questions. When I said I was just trying on the models for size I was left to explore.

If I had one qualm about Apple Stores it's that the in-store pickup experience could be faster. I order online for in-store p/u because I want the hassle-freen online experience with the instant gratification of having the product same-day. Don't ask me if I want any add-ons when I p/u. You've already don't that when I ordered and I declined. I just want my order and to leave. That is where Apple should focus on moving customers in and out of the store as quick as possible. Even better would be an Amazon-Locker type device in-store and I could just grab it and go.
 
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Angrydad

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Oct 4, 2017
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So it’s very obvious that when Magazines ask employees questions about their work they need to talk to them out of store. The fact is most Apple employees don’t believe they are paid enough, we can’t afford to live day to day, we have to wonder where our meals are coming from it’s very difficult to have a work life balance with Apple. Apple does not see that cost of living affects most of the employees in the Denver area. If you’re going to be an individual trying to support a family working for Apple is a joke. Some of the benefits are good but it doesn’t put food on the table and pay the bills every month. We are getting to be more like a Best Buy every single day, customer service is lacking now they say there’s other sources to get help with but most customers cannot get help over the phone they want to come in to the Apple Store for the personal attention.
 
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kingpushup

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Jun 24, 2013
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The criticisms of quick purpose-driven interactions are spot-on, but the old way was equally risky: remember free repairs whenever and just relaxing in the SF theater? I would like to see personnel offering to customers: wish to discuss inside or outside (in the curated courtyards) like restaurant seating options, because its good for business flow and it offers personal choice.
 
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unobtainium

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Mar 27, 2011
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So it’s very obvious that when Magazines ask employees questions about their work they need to talk to them out of store. The fact is most Apple employees don’t believe they are paid enough, we can’t afford to live day to day, we have to wonder where our meals are coming from it’s very difficult to have a work life balance with Apple. Apple does not see that cost of living affects most of the employees in the Denver area. If you’re going to be an individual trying to support a family working for Apple is a joke. Some of the benefits are good but it doesn’t put food on the table and pay the bills every month. We are getting to be more like a Best Buy every single day, customer service is lacking now they say there’s other sources to get help with but most customers cannot get help over the phone they want to come in to the Apple Store for the personal attention.
You have to understand that even though you work for a multi-trillion dollar company, frontline workers for that company don't matter. I'm sure you wouldn't want a billionaire shareholder to have to give 0.000001% of his wealth so workers could make a decent wage?
 
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nutriousmitten

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Feb 7, 2017
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Were there actually complaints about the tshirt cotton hardness? Not like employees were previously wearing polyester. File that under snowflakes, or, we found cheaper tshirts that are thinner and softer and probably won't last as long but we will call it a move to improve employee moral.
And "sacred" tables? Get over yourself Ive. At some point that will be a contentious point for AA because the tables are 90% of the sales floor experience and equipment and if she has to shake it up to appear progressive and update or change the retail experience , tables would be what has to be modified.
 
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tkermit

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Feb 20, 2004
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I wish she'd change up her smile once in awhile, that smug looking smirk is annoying.
She does come off as a bit patronizing to me. Like it says in the article: "In a different life, Ahrendts could have been a pastor."
 
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nfl46

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Oct 5, 2008
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Everyone knows she's Tim's successor for CEO of Apple. It's starting to become obvious at this point. They sure as hell aren't putting a hardware or software guy at the top.
 
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