Apple's New Retail Chief Will Lead the Conquest of Asia

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 15 2013 8:28 AM

Apple's New Retail Chief Will Lead the Conquest of Asia

96984784
Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts has been tapped to serve as Apple's new retail chief.

Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Burberry

Angela Ahrendts, CEO of British luxury retailer Burberry, has been tapped to serve as Apple's new retail chief. The selection fills a couple of holes at the company. This is a job that's simply been empty for a long time, and Apple's long had a serious deficit of women in the corporate ranks.

But if you want to know what this is really about, I think you need to look at comparative maps of where Burberry's retail stores and where Apple's retail stores are. Compared to Apple, Burberry's 66 retail locations in the United States is a relatively modest operation. But Apple has three stores in Hong Kong. Burberry has 15. Apple has eight stores in mainland China. Burberry has seven stores in Shanghai alone. Plus six more in Beijing. They're in Dalian, they're in Harbin, they're in Hangzhou, they're even in Urumqi.

Advertisement

Which is to say that Ahrendts looks like someone who can bring the Apple retail operation what it needs—knowledge of how to go really big in Asia.

The retail situation at Apple is a bit odd right now. Ron Johnson, who used to run it, left quite a while ago to run J.C. Penney. As his replacement, Tim Cook hired a guy named John Browett who used to run a British retail company. Their style looked like an odd fit for Apple's high-end, design-oriented sensibility, and Browett got fired pretty fast. Then Jerry McDougal, who looked like a leading internal candidate for the job, left in January. But despite the chaos at the top, Apple's retail stores are fine. Better than fine, in fact. They're some of the most successful stores in the world. On a per anything basis, they're a wild success.

But that really just means that the company ought to be opening more stores. Lots of them. Yet they've probably tapped out most of the best locations in the United States already (though I'd certainly make a case for a downtown DC store) and given the distribution of the world population and economic growth, that means the logical place for expansion is Asia. That means you want a CEO who knows the territory in Asia, and has some idea what is and isn't a good location in Kunming. Or at least knows how to find out. Ahrendts fits the bill: She's an American who's been running a highly identifiable upscale western brand and scaling up its retail presence in Asia. That's exactly what Apple needs from its retail division.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM Surge Pricing Is Not Price Gouging
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?