Ahrendts takes Burberry magic to Apple

Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of British luxury brand Burberry, will be moving to Apple to become senior vice president of retail and online stores in April. She will also join the Apple executive team and report to CEO Tim Cook.

Her task is to reinvigorate Apple’s retail operations which have lost their lustre. In particular, Apple has seen sales soften and competitors have aped many of their unique retail features such as the Genius Bar and roving staff.

Ahrendts’ transformation of the Burberry brand is both well-documented and remarkable. She took the helm in 2006 and since then Burberry has consistently outperformed the FTSE 100, grown in value from £2bn to £7bn and the international reach of the brand has expanded dramatically, especially in Asia.

At first glance, Burberry and Apple don’t seem like brands with much in common. But when you consider the premium nature of Apple’s products and also the impending launch if the iWatch, there are clearer similarities. And with the future trend for wearable tech being very much in vogue, a fashion retail expert makes a very good fit.

Ahrendts is also notable for embracing ecommerce and tech when other luxury brands shunned the web. And she has spoken of her admiration of Apple too. In 2010 she said: “If I look to any company as a model, it’s Apple. They’re a brilliant design company working to create a lifestyle, and that’s the way I see us.”

At Burberry she successfully executed a social media campaign involving Romeo Beckham, placed Apple iPads in stores so customers could “showroom” Burberry’s full inventory and also ensured that fashion shows were streamed live on the web. Behind the scenes, operations have been streamlined with an investment in technology and what Ahrendts calls the “constructive use” of big data.

With this appointment, Angela Ahrendts becomes the only woman at the Apple top table and her task to revive the fortunes of Apple retail is of vital strategic important to the brand. But after her success at Burberry, Ahrendts seems like a smart hire.