Angela Ahrendts is stepping down as Apple’s senior vice president of retail after five years in the job.
Announcing the news this week, Apple said Ahrendts will depart in April for “new personal and professional pursuits.”
At the same time, the tech company revealed Ahrendts’ replacement as Deirdre O’Brien, an Apple veteran who currently heads human resources.
A bittersweet set of announcements today. Angela, we thank you for all you’ve done to inspire and energize our teams. Deirdre, we can think of no one better to lead our stores and all of Apple’s people in their mission to change lives for the better. pic.twitter.com/PekF8rU9Qe
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) February 6, 2019
Ahrendts left the top job at Burberry to join Apple and used her experience in the fashion industry to try to increase Apple’s appeal as a luxury brand, with many new Apple Stores opening in swanky shopping districts. The company currently employs about 70,000 people at more than 500 stores in 25 countries.
Ahrendts also created a more casual atmosphere inside the stores, replacing fixed cash tills with iPhone-based payment terminals carried around by staff. Other changes included reducing the number of third-party firms selling accessories such as iPhone cases, giving the space to the Apple’s alternative offerings.
In addition, she pushed the idea of using its retail space as venues beyond a straightforward store, encouraging a broader range of activities such as presentations, concerts, and educational initiatives.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that during her time at the company, Ahrendts had been “a positive, transformative force, both for Apple’s stores and the communities they serve,” while Ahrendts herself described her tenure as “the most stimulating, challenging, and fulfilling” of her career so far.
Prior to joining Apple in 2014, Ahrendts had more than three decades of experience in the fashion industry, in that time working as executive vice president at apparel company Liz Claiborne and, prior to joining the iPhone maker, as CEO of luxury fashion brand Burberry
Apple’s retail boss ranked 4 on Forbes’ 2018 list of the world’s most powerful women in tech and was believed to be the company’s highest paid executive. In 2017 she earned a reported $24.2 million, almost double the $12.8 million that her boss Tim Cook received in the same year.
Ahrendts’ replacement, Deirdre O’Brien, will expand her current role as human resources chief to become Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people. O’Brien joined Apple 30 years ago, taking up her most recent position in 2017.
“At Apple, we believe our soul is our people, and Deirdre understands the qualities and strengths of our team better than anyone,” Cook said this week. “For more than three decades, she has helped keep Apple focused on serving customers and enriching lives. She’s an exceptional leader and she’s been a vital partner to our retail teams around the world since the very beginning.”
Apple’s change at the top comes as the company battles falling iPhone sales, with Cook recently blaming a range of factors, including an economic slowdown in China, for the decline. Now all eyes are on O’Brien to see if she can help turn the situation around.