Apple Hires Levi's Retail Exec, But He Won't Run Retail

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), whose retail stores have been without a senior executive in charge since October, has hired a Levi's exec to run much of its U.S. west-coast retail, according to 9to5 Mac.

Enrique Atienza, who was senior VP for retail Americas and global store operations at Levi's, will reportedly start in October and be the director of all retail matters for many sales regions on the west coast, which puts him high on Apple's retail org chart. Atienza will report to retail VP Steve Cano, who insiders say was given an expanded role earlier this year. Cano reports directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

All this is happening in the context of Apple's slow-drip search for a new head of retail. Since former retail chief Ron Johnson left Apple in November 2011 for his disastrous stint at JCPenney, that role was reportedly filled for five months by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, then for another six months by John Browett, the former head of U.K. discount-electronics chain Dixons, and since then, officially, by CEO Cook.

The company is still officially searching for a head of the retail group, reportedly focusing on candidates outside the U.S.

Much of the problem may be a conflict between what's seen as the Steve Jobs legacy—a strong delight-the-customer focus—and the need to keep budgets tight and expenses down at the stores. That may be too simplistic, though. After Jobs turned over the reins of Apple to Cook in 2009, there did seem to be a greater focus on squeezing out costs, but that was also in the depths of the economic downturn. Apple's reputation as the gold standard for high-touch retail seems to be undiminished, though the chain's not exactly at its peak of innovation these days.

One possibility: Atienza will run the west-coast stores until he has mastered the nuances of Apple's culture and Cook has decided whether he's the right guy to run the whole operation. Given that Apple still hasn't managed to find a retail boss after nearly a year, that makes as much sense as anything else.

For more:

- See this 9to5 Mac story

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