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Report: Apple to look outside company for new retail head
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Aug 1, 2013, 08:59 PM
Apple is looking outside its own ranks for a new head of retail operations, and has even hired an executive recruitment firm to assist in the search, reports say. Apple CEO Tim Cook, with assistance from other executives such as worldwide marketing head Phil Schiller, has been managing the retail side of operations since the company parted ways with UK import John Browett in October of last year. Browett, who tried to bring a leaner, more sales-oriented approach to the stores, quickly fell foul of Apple culture, employees and customers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the difficulty of outsiders being able to influence Apple's internal corporate culture has been an obstacle in getting qualified candidates, either because (like Browett) they wouldn't be a "good fit" for Apple's unconventional methods or because they feel they wouldn't have the influence necessary as outsiders to bring real change to the organization.

Though Apple does need a retail chief, it must be said that under Cook's direction the retail side of the company has been doing remarkably well: Apple Stores brought in $4.4 billion in revenue in the last quarter, nearly double the amount the online App Stores made, and averaged 16,000 visitors per store per week across the company's 408 stores. Apple is by far the most profitable-per-square-foot retailer in the world, even beating out diamond sellers and high-volume big-box discounters. The average Apple Store makes $10.1 million in sales every quarter, four times the amount they did on average just four years ago.

The report says that Apple has hired recruitment firm Egon Zehnder International to find candidates, but has run into trouble in the form of rejections from possible contenders. Likewise, Apple has allegedly turned down a number of potential recruits, demonstrating the tricky nature of bringing new people into what former CEO Steve Jobs called "a team of A-players."

It's unknown if Apple would consider rehiring Ron Johnson, the previous head of retail for 10 years prior to Browett's short tenure, who was by all accounts well-liked and is widely credited with the success of the Apple Store concept. Of course, he may not be interested in rejoining Apple either.

Johnson, who left the company in 2011 to become the CEO of JC Penney's, ran into the same problem outside candidates for Apple's retail job may find waiting for them: he was unable to effect as many big changes to the familiar structure of the company as he wanted quickly enough to effect a turnaround, and thus faced mounting pressure from investors and alienated customers who were turned off by the overhaul while not able to attract enough new customers to offset the losses. Johnson was fired from Penney's earlier this year after a 17-month tenure.
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