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.