Apple's Ahrendts readies for retail reinvention

Angela Ahrendts, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new senior VP of retail and online stores, has been on the job for little more than a month, but already big changes are in the works for the company's retail stores.

Ahrendts' appointment was announced in October 2013, and she had a good amount of time leading up to her May 1 start date to think through a strategy that will breathe new life into stores and chart out a course for future growth. The result is a three-part vision that focuses on China, mobile payments and a complete revamp of the Apple store experience from end-to-end.

Apple hardly qualifies as a candidate for a turnaround, but the company's stores haven't changed much since the first units debuted in May 2001. Although Apple is still considered to be the standard bearer for best in class retailing, the company needs to be constantly innovating in both its retail and technology businesses.

And that's what Ahrendts is promising.

Ahrendts is planning a total overhaul of Apple's retail stores in advance of a slew of new store openings in China (there are 20 new units planned there through 2016), a new location in Italy and another in Spain.

There are more U.S. locations in the works for the back end of this year, but most will be inside malls rather than the busy thoroughfares Apple has chosen in the past, according to 9to5mac.

More critically, Ahrendts is implementing an organizational structure that realigns stores based on sales volume rather than geographic region, according to reports. This should allow stores with similar sales patterns and customers to have like leadership and promotions that will create a more personalized shopping experience. This move to align stores by customer experience and not simply an arbitrary location creates a more accurate experience for shoppers.

Mobile payments is the third stated point of focus for Ahrendts, one that Apple is already advancing. The announcement at the annual worldwide developer conference that the Touch ID fingerprint sensor would be opened up to third-party app developers blows the doors open for wide adoption by retailers for payments.

Touch ID had previously been limited to Apple's own App Store and iTunes downloads. Just a few hours after Cook's announcement, CardFlight, a provider of mobile POS technology, said it will incorporate Apple's Touch ID technology into its SwipeSimple mobile payments application. More are sure to follow suit.

Ahrendts' tenure at Apple begins three years after Ron Johnson left to take a stab at running JCPenney. His replacement, John Browett, formerly of U.K. electronics chain Dixon, was a bad fit and ultimately was let go while CEO Tim Cook looked for a better candidate.

He seems to have found one in Ahrendts, who has reinvigorated Burberry both as a brand and a retail experience.

For more:
-See this 9to5mac story
-See this Business Insider story

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