Angela Ahrendts: How Apple Stores have defied the retail odds

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Angela Ahrendts.
Angela Ahrendts has a definite vision for Apple Stores.
Photo: Apple

The retail sector is in trouble — with almost 10,000 stores in the U.S. having closed their doors in the U.S. since 2017. Apple’s solution? Make shopping into an experience for customers, rather than just a place to spend money.

That’s the theory laid out by Apple’s retail VP Angela Ahrendts in a new interview for Vogue Business. In it, Ahrendts lays out her Apple Store philosophies as pertain to both customers and employees. It certainly seems to be working!

Focusing on big flagship stores

Ahrendts says that Apple is now slowing down its U.S. retail expansion — but only so that it can make sure that every store is spectacular. “We are now opening fewer, larger stores so that you can get the full experience of everything that’s Apple,” she said.

In the case of some of the historic sites Apple selects for its stores, it makes sure that they offer as up-to-date technology as the new-build stores. For instance, at the upcoming Apple Carnegie Library flagship in Washington D.C., Apple has inserted thousands of location aware iBeacons behind the historic walls. This, she said, helps make stores into “living, breathing spaces, not just two-dimensional boxes.”

For Apple, educational events like the “Today at Apple” talks, classes, concerts and workshops are part of the experiential retail vision. “I think as humans we still need gathering places,” she said. “And when you are serving digital natives, the thing they long for more than anything is human connection.”

Keeping staff engaged

Finally, the article details the way that Apple tries to keep employees invested in this vision.

All retail employees start their day using an app called “Hello.” This updates them on all the latest information they need to know as part of their job. This often involves a video from Ahrendts and her team.

They also use another app called “Loop” which allows staff to share information and ideas with each other — including short videos. This app includes an auto-translate feature making it easier for employees from around the world to communicate.

Ahrendts credits initiatives such as this with Apple’s high retention rate for employees. “Many retailers have become so big they’re removed from their own employees,” she said. “They are lucky if they keep more than 20 per cent every year. We keep nearly 90 per cent of our full-time employees. We moved 20 per cent of the people in retail last year – they got promoted, took on new positions.”

The whole article is well worth a read. Check it out here.