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Few CEOs have it as good as Apple's Tim Cook. Just look at his company's performance in the first quarter of his tenure.

But as strong as Apple is currently, Cook can't sit back and hope that the company Steve Jobs took to new heights will run itself. He'll have to make tough decisions, and put his mark on the company's operations.

He's doing just that with his first big hire.

Today, Apple announced that it has recruited John Browett away from his position as CEO of technology retailer Dixons Retail to join the company as its new SVP of Retail. Browett will start in April, and he'll report directly to Cook.

While Browett's title may be shrinking from the C-suite to SVP, his responsibilities are arguably growing. According to Apple's press release, "he will be responsible for [the company's] retail strategy and the continued expansion of Apple retail stores around the world." As GigaOm's Bobbie Johnson notes, that retail strategy produced some $14bn in sales last year.

Those retail stores are, of course, very important to Apple's success. They're not just storefronts for selling Apple products; they've become an important part of the Apple brand. And Browett may be just the person to oversee them.

Prior to Dixons Retail, Browett was an executive at Tesco and had served as CEO of Tesco.com for a time. He did consulting for retailers and CPG brands at Boston Consulting Group. And it appears he has book smarts as well, having graduated from Wharton Business School's prestigious MBA program.

So how might Browett might influence Apple's retail strategy going forward? GigaOm's Johnson points out that initial reaction to Browett's appointment has been mixed. On one hand, Browett's credentials are hard to beat. On the other, some aren't impressed with his work at Dixons:

...for those who know Dixons as it exists in the real world, the reaction was somewhat different: the most common refrain I saw was “Has Tim Cook ever been in a Dixons store?”.

Dixons operates two major store brands — Currys and PC World — and a number of online outlets, and their approach probably puts them somewhere in the region of Radio Shack and Best Buy. They are not widely loved by the public. And while it’s fair to say that Browett inherited a troubled company and improved its offerings to ordinary shoppers, he has also presided over a calamitous 90 percent fall in its share price over the last five years.

One thing is certain: there are few stores like the Apple Store. For that reason, it would not be surprising to see Browett take a measured approach as he gets comfortable in his new role. Apple's retail strategy is in a good place, and so long as Browett respects its current positioning, less is probably more.

Interesting, that raises perhaps the biggest question: is less more for Apple long-term? Perhaps not. Steve Jobs and the people he surrounded himself with frequently made bold bets, and the bets that paid off helped put Apple where it is today.

With this in mind, it's worth noting that Browett is replacing Ron Johnson, who left Apple to become CEO of retailer JC Penney. Johnson had presided over the growth of the Apple Store, so his shoes are big ones to fill. For Browett to succeed him successfully, he probably can't take a 'don't mess things up' approach for too long.

Patricio Robles

Published 31 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

Frankly I think Apple stores are a mess, 90% of the staff are not very helpful and the materialistic atmosphere makes me want to get out!

Apple products sell them self's, John has it made now, don't mess with the status quo and keep oiling the cogs, anyone with their feet on the ground can do that job with their eyes shut.

over 4 years ago

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Rebecca Nixon, Brand Executive at The IT Job Board

A retail store with a materialistic atmosphere is, well, pretty standard fare. As for customer service I've never walked into an Apple store without being greeted and assisted to a very high standard, and I think the fact that they give free classes on using their OS and software speaks pretty highly of them - although I have never personally used that service they were very good to my Nan when she bought her first computer at almost 70, a MacBook.

I think those of us that are used to the very high standards of Apple's retail outlets have our concerns, as ever since Jobs tragically passed away the future of the company and the Apple brand has been less certain. But all we can do is wait and see how it pans out; for all we know Johnson may do an excellent job.

over 4 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

I think you are mistaking the difference between explaining to a 70 year old where the power button is and having staff that are more interested in Apple products than their hair cuts.

If you can see past the tinseled staff you will notice the beautiful store materials and of course the Apple products them selfs. As long as John keeps the budget for every store opening as high (or even higher) he will do just fine.

Ive probably gone through more apple products than anyone on this site. I would not buy from an Apple store unless its an off the shelf item. Try and buy a new iMac with a wired keyboard in store.

over 4 years ago

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Rebecca Nixon, Brand Executive at The IT Job Board

*Themselves

I've owned (quick mental tally) 9 Mac desktop computers, 4 MacBooks, 4 iPhones, 4 iPods and an iPad - all bought at retail outlets - so I think perhaps I have just a little bit of experience in this department.

So far I have personally dealt with 4 Apple retail outlets and 2 other Apple dealers, across 3 continents and 2 decades. (If we brought my direct family into the equation you can probably add a zero onto each of those.)

I know that no retail environment is perfect. Although I clearly have Apple as first preference in my purchasing choices, I am by no means subscribed to the "fanboy" mentality that makes some Apple users oblivious to the company's faults. Apple are by no means perfect, but overall their retail experience is of the highest standard and I have yet to see it superceded.

Also training a senior citizen who has literally never used a computer of any kind before in her life is far more challenging than showing her "where the power button is," I can assure you! It takes a great deal of patience and I know of many instances of staff spending hours upon hours assisting elderly folk with something that is completely unfamiliar to them.

There is a great deal of rhetoric in both of your comments, but no real facts to back up what you're saying.

If you've had a bad experience in-store I would encourage you to take it up with the manager, but being young and having great hair is hardly a sin and I don't think you'll have anyone's employment terminated on that basis.

over 4 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

Rebecca, your replies clearly indicate that you are merely a 'consumer' of apple products, I on the other hand use them as production tools, when you have your whole business based around apple hardware and software, and no one at the store level can help its quite a different 'experience', sure if you have nothing to do and want to hang out with the cool kidz while your nan is being shown her way around iPhoto then I cant think of many other retail stores I would rather be to browse facebook.

How ever if you want a 27" HD display repaired in less than two weeks, or you have a missing screw at the bottom of your £2.6k MacBook Pro and time is money then i would suggest you do it yourself!

Im sorry to hear that you have not experienced anything better than what apple has to offer on its shop floor, that would explain why your views are so blinkered.

Ps, my 74 year old Grandfather is on his iMac running a video call via Skype to his friends who he served in the army with right now, Money well spent i think! - This is what Apple products are all about!

over 4 years ago

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Rebecca Nixon, Brand Executive at The IT Job Board

I have decided to leave this conversation as although I could firmly argue against every condescending assumption you have made about my experience and character, I'd rather not engage further with someone who thinks a working professional has nothing better to do than "hang out" with the staff you so respectfully refer to as "the cool kidz."

Apple will continue to get both my personal custom and any further business contracts I may have the opportunity of delivering to them, as I have found that both on a personal and corporate level their service and product knowledge has been second to none, and since I have personally engaged with Sony, Samsung, Microsoft and dozens of other vendors I am more than experienced enough to compare them to other market players and have found them to be head and shoulders above the rest.

over 4 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

Rebecca, have a read of chapter twenty nine, page 368 of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, i promise you will see the apple stores in a different light!

Peace!

over 4 years ago

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David Bell, Ecommerce & Commercial Manager at Advent Data Group

Did anyone at Apple research Dixons and their endless retail fails?

This whole scenario sounds as though it could have been another chapter in the book around the period before Jobs went back to Apple to sort them out.

Except we all know that won't happen this time.

over 4 years ago

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