Photo by Apple
Apple Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts Leaving in April
Apple has announced that senior vice president of Retail Angela Ahrendts will be leaving the company in April 2019 after a five-year stint. The former Burberry CEO has been replaced by Deirdre O’Brien, who was previously Apple’s vice president of People; she’s being promoted to senior vice president of Retail + People, reporting to Tim Cook. There has been speculation that weak iPhone sales led to Ahrendts leaving (see “Apple’s Q1 2019 Results: iPhone Bad, the Rest Good,” 29 January 2019), given that Vogue Business ran a glowing profile the week before the announcement that offered no clue that she was about to depart. However, she told Suzy Menkes, author of the profile, that she misses her family in London, so it’s entirely likely that the usual “for new personal and professional pursuits” claim should be taken at face value. As for her legacy, iMore’s Rene Ritchie points out that Ahrendts oversaw the unification of Apple’s online and physical retail, improved pre-orders, and created the Today at Apple courses. What do you think of the Apple Stores under Ahrendts? Register your vote in our one-question survey and share your thoughts in the comments.
She’ll have her reasons.
What does this have to do with TidBits readers?
I think the stores have declined, but I wouldn’t pin the blame on her.
It just happens that so many more people have become Apple customers in recent years. In stores that has led to lines growing longer, store floors getting more crowded, employees showing less attention to users’ needs, etc. They still need more slots for immediate (warranty) repairs and they need to assure shorter turn-around. These devices should be seen as critical tools people need to get work done, not just some fashion doohickey you can be without for 3-5 days.
That said, their stores are still pretty darn good compared to what others are like.
I think the stores are pretty incredible really. The rest of the market just pales in comparison. The issue perhaps might be service and how its perceived. There was always a sense before that Apple knew who you were. Now you’re one in a billion.
She’s the person who has designed the Apple Stores that get 500 million visitors each year. That’s a really big deal to the company, and is something that most TidBITS readers will have had some experience with.
It affects how, where and why many, if not most, TidBITS readers purchase devices, get them repaired, get support and attend classes and events.
Way back when Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be opening stores, I ranted and raved on this forum about what a dumb idea it was because there was a Gateway, CompUSA, etc., etc. store within a few blocks in every major metro area. A day or two later I needed a new mouse and finding any Apple products was like searching for the holy grail in a CompUSA, and the salespeople didn’t even know where anything Mac or Mac related was, let alone have any knowledge to make suggestions. There were maybe 3-4 banged up Macs that weren’t set up to try out. So I quickly changed my mind.
One of Ahrendt’s major accomplishments was to overhaul Apple’s online store as well as its physical retail outlet. The online decision making and purchasing processes are much better user experiences.
IMHO, she has done an outstanding job with the redesign of the Stores, and the development of classes and events. However, and I know this is completely anecdotal and I and my family and friends do not constitute a representative sample, but in the last few years I’ve found the sales help to be well below par, and the Geniuses to be not very knowledgeable, unhelpful and reluctant to even get involved in solving a anything other than a clear cut problem. And one of the big pluses of the Stores was that initially you could just walk in and have a short wait time to see a Genius, then it went from booking an appointment a day or two in advance. Now, even though I’m not far from a number of Stores, it’s up to about a 4-5 day wait. As I’m semi retired, I’m flexible about hours; people who work full time and have limited schedules can run into big problems.
So I love that Apple has many beautiful, well stocked stores across the globe, and that the stores are always mobbed when so many other retailer venues are empty, loosing customers and being shut down. I appreciate that at least here in the NYC, there are many great venues and a big, expanding variety of classes and events. But the service sucks and has been getting progressively worse over the last few years. Whether Ahrendts made the choice to leave herself or not, I can see why replacing her with a longtime Apple specialist with a people focused, HR/customer relations background makes sense.
The results are mixed. While some aspects are better, the stores as actual places to buy things have gotten worse. I used to love going there; now I only go when there’s no other option.
Just a few weeks ago I had a bizarre experience there. A friend from out of town visited and wanted to stop at the local Apple Store and get an watch 4 for his mother. He’d already checked the store’s inventory and they had the model he wanted in stock. So we swung by thinking it would be a 5-minute task to pick it up.
We should have bought it online. I couldn’t believe it when a rep told us we would have to wait 45 minutes until someone could help us and go to the back of the store to get the watch and sell it to us. If we’d bought it online first, they’d have had it ready for pickup (that process takes a couple of hours so it wasn’t an option to do at the store).
This was crazy. A customer ready to buy is being told to wait almost an hour. This was in January, well after the holiday rush. We didn’t need sales help. The item was in stock. We just needed them to hand it to us — but we were in a queue and would have to wait our turn!
We both decided that clearly the online option (with store pick up) is what we’d do in the future.
My friend was so annoyed he actually called other stores in the area trying to see if any had the watch in stock, but none did, and we ended up waiting pretty close to the 45-minutes to get the watch at the Apple Store. He was only in town that day so we had no other time to make the purchase. The delay, naturally, meant we hit rush hour traffic going home, exactly what we’d been trying to avoid.
My experience has mirrored yours. I have 2 stores within easy driving distance. When the second opened I couldn’t have been happier - no more traffic to get there and the store was lovely. But as you said, the past 2-3 years have been pretty difficult. You can no longer walk in even as they open the doors and hope to be seen quickly. What happened when I got my battery replaced in December was insane and I’m glad I had enough knowledge to take care of it. But it took me three trips to the store to finish it up and in the end, my original phone was so destroyed that we were never able to decommission it. I still have ghosts of it kicking around.
That said, I don’t think I’ve ever met an unpleasant person there. I just question their knowledge at times, and 10 years ago I wouldn’t have.
Every time I walk past a Microsoft store, it’s practically empty. There are usually a few grade school kids playing video games, and it looks like their parents parked them there so they could shop for fashions and home furnishings in other stores in peace. And it’s not like department and specialty stores are packed these days.
I have had three highly unsatisfactory visits to Apple Stores re: my iPhone 8+ is a POS. My husband and I both bought the same model, same time, same place. His works great and there was no problem setting it up in the store. Mine took forever to set up and has been nothing but trouble since. Apple Mail is a continuing, though intermittent, problem. Mail works just fine on my 4s, MacBook Pro, iPad. My husband’s account with the same email provider works fine on his 5 Apple devices. The solution from two “Geniuses?”…“You should use Gmail.”
Same here. The Genius was a whiz at navigating the decision tree software on the iPad in his hands, but completely ignorant or oblivious of anything else.
I completely agree.
My wife’s 6S Plus had cracked glass and the battery was down to 80%, so we went in before Christmas to get new glass and a new battery at the offered $29. Same day repair but was delivered about 30 min late…unsolicited, they knocked 5% off the repair bill. Happy, we left. Unfortunately, the phone was dropped on unforgiving tile floor a few days later, and the brand new glass shattered. The current offerings by Apple are too big and too expensive so I decided we would eat another glass replacement bill. Went back a few weeks later, and while prepping the phone, I noticed the dreaded Expanding Case indicating bad battery. This will be interesting, I thought. Upshot: final bill was $170 for glass replacement but received “new” (probably refurbed) phone due to battery. Minimal waiting, and very helpful Apple person, who pointed out that the “new” phone would be worth $250 as a trade-in on a new, current phone. We’re happy with the “new” 6s plus, as well as the service we received.
Well I gave up on instore knowledge after my then ten-year old explained pinch to zoom to an employee.
We don’t have Apple Stores in Ireland so its not the place you go for support/repairs there’s a few third party stores that offer a bridge into Apple support for that. It is interesting when abroad to go to them however. Primarily to check things in person and try on a watch or how fast an iMac Pro can launch Photoshop and do a few tricks. We also use them to organise our day a bit, where’s that museum etc.
Nobody goes there anymore - it’s always too crowded!!!
The Angela Ahrendts departure could turn in to be the introduction to a saga. Samsung is opening branded brick and mortar stores, the first three will be in malls with extremely busy Apple Stores. I think it’s particularly interesting that Apple’s closest competitor will be selling directly in US locations, and offer repairs, experiences and events:
In its last quarter, Samsung had a big drop in total revenue and profits, not just in mobile phones. I always suspected they never opened branded stores because they couldn’t risk aggravating Best Buy, etc. But because they do have a much broader range of products than Apple, they will need bigger space. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
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