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Apple hires John Browett, of UK's Dixons, to head retail business

January 31, 2012 | 11:46 am

BrowettFor Apple Inc.'s newly appointed head of retail, the Genius Bar is high.

The company said on Tuesday it had hired John Browett, chief executive of European technology retailer Dixons, to head Apple's global fleet of 361 stores, starting in April.  Apple's fast-growing chain of stores pulled in $6.1 billion in sales last quarter, a nearly 60% jump over the same period a year ago, and accounting for 13% of the company's revenue.

Apple stores are known for their clean, spacious look, attractive architecture, and attentive customer service members.  The company also has a penchant for opening the stores in marquee locations, including New York's Grand Central Station, which took the wraps off of an Apple store in December.

Meanwhile Dixons stores, like the PC World pictured here, are reminiscent of U.S. chains Best Buy and Fry's Electronics; lots of square footage, row upon row of shelves packed with products and, frequently, bright primary color schemes. (At Best Buy, the employees are known as "Blue Shirts.")

The apparent gap between that aesthetic and the minimalist, elegant look and feel of Apple stores led some observers to wonder whether Browett's approach might clash with Apple's. 

But Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive and Browett's new boss, wasn't worried.

“Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met,” Cook said in a statement.

Browett replaces Ron Johnson, who built Apple's retail chain into what it is today, and who left last June to become chief executive of J.C. Penney, and who is trying to simplify the way the old-line department chain works (among the strategies for its 1,100 stores: fewer coupons, fewer sales and lower overall prices). 

Browett will move in the other direction, from a chain of 1,200 stores that operate across Europe and sell products from hundreds of manufacturers, to a network of smaller storefronts that sell a relative handful of products, nearly all of them from Apple.

Apple executives are likely betting that Browett's knack for retail isn't reflected by Dixons stock performance. The company's stock prices have dropped more than 90% during Browett's tenure, which began in 2007.


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-- David Sarno

Photo: John Browett will take on his new job at Apple as senior vice president of retail in April.  Credit: Associated Press