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Apple’s retail chief to step down in April

BY Marianne Wilson

The head of Apple’s retail operations and online stores is leaving her post after five years on the job and will be replaced by a 30-year company veteran.

The tech giant announced that Angela Ahrendts, senior VP of retail, Apple, will step down in April for “new personal and professional pursuits.” Ahrendts joined Apple in 2014, coming from Burberry Group PLC, where she served as CEO and was credited with helping to turn around the luxury fashion brand. She is one of Apple’s highest-paid employees and one of the most prominent female executives in retail.

During Ahrendt’s watch, the company revamped its stores with a goal of turning them into “town squares,” opened a series of expensive high-profile flagships that spotlighted the brand’s luxury appeal. Her departure comes shortly after Apple released disappointing holiday sales and cut its sales forecast amid weakness in China. The company currently operates 506 retail stores on five continents and 35 online stores.

“I want to thank Angela for inspiring and energizing our teams over the past five years,” said Tim Cook, CEO, Apple. “She has been a positive, transformative force, both for Apple’s stores and the communities they serve. We all wish her the very best as she begins a new chapter.”

Ahrendts will be replaced by Deirdre O’Brien, currently VP of people, who will take on additional responsibilities for Apple’s retail and online stores in an expanded role as senior VP of retail + people. The 30-year Apple veteran will continue to lead the people team, overseeing such functions as talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity.

“At Apple, we believe our soul is our people, and Deirdre understands the qualities and strengths of our team better than anyone,” said Cook. “For more than three decades, she has helped keep Apple focused on serving customers and enriching lives. She’s an exceptional leader and she’s been a vital partner to our retail teams around the world since the very beginning.”

In a statement, Ahrendts called the last five years “the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling” of her career.

“Through the teams’ collective efforts, retail has never been stronger or better positioned to make an even greater contribution for Apple,” she said. “I feel there is no better time to pass the baton to Deirdre, one of Apple’s strongest executives.”

In a recent article in Vogue Business, Ahrendts hinted that she may be interested in returning to fashion.

“You know, I loved fashion for 40 years,” she said. “It is wonderful when you know everything there is to know about the industry because you grew up in it.”

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