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Napoleon once described the UK as a “nation of shopkeepers”, so it is somewhat fitting that this is where Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has gone to find its next retail supremo.
On Tuesday, the company announced it had hired John Browett as its new retail SVP, poaching him from his current role as CEO of the UK-based consumer electronics retailer Dixons.
Its former head of retail, Ron Johnson, left the company last year to become the CEO of mid-market department store JC Penney; retail responsibilities have been overseen in the interim by CFO Peter Oppenheimer. Browett, who officially leaves Dixons in April, will report directly to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook.
The move has come of something of a surprise to those who already know Dixons. Currently trying to figure out how to operate 13 different retail brands across bricks-and-mortar and web, Dixons couldn’t be more different from the singular, global tight-ship vision that is the Apple machine.
And, although it may be unfair to compare any company to Apple at the moment, we’ll just state the following for the record: Dixons has not exactly weathered the European economic climate particularly well recently.
In its last trading update, from earlier this month, Dixons noted that its sales across the group for the previous 12 weeks, taking in the traditionally key holiday sales period, were down by three percent compared to the year before; gross margins were flat.
On the other hand, Apple is, at the end of the day, just another major brand and consumer electronics giant looking for the best way of leveraging physical retail with online sales, working with its own properties and in reselling partnerships with others.
In that sense, it’s not exactly above any of the others.
Putting Browett’s recent Dixons past together with prior experience as CEO of Tesco.com, the very successful online operation of the big supermarket chain, you could also argue that Apple itself is making some careful moves into figuring out how best to tackle the next stage of its growth as a massive company, from being perceived as high-end and expensive as a luxury that everyone can afford.
That’s something the company has also been exploring through the products themselves — from less expensive, older models of the iPhone, to competitive tablet pricing, iPod nanos and smaller MacBook Air laptops.
Dixons, meanwhile, announced that Browett will step down from his position on the board on February 20, and will be leaving the role of CEO on April 20 after a transition period. He is being replaced by Sebastian James, who has been with Dixons since 2008 running operations.