Apple picks Dixons’ John Browett as retail chief

apple-store-5th-ave

Apple’s famous retail stores are getting a new boss: the Cupertino company announced today that it is hiring John Browett to lead its retail operations. Browett has been the CEO of the British electronics retailer Dixons since 2007; before that, he headed up Tesco PLC’s online shopping site. Browett will start at Apple in April as senior vice president of retail.

“Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a statement. “We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple.”

Browett is the replacement for Ron Johnson, who departed Apple more than seven months ago to step into the CEO role at struggling traditional retailer J.C. Penney. Johnson oversaw the launch of Apple’s retail stores beginning all the way back in 2001—a move that was greeted with widespread skepticism. Now, Apple operates more than 300 of its own retail stores around the world, several of which (like the famous “glass cube” location on New York’s Fifth Avenue) have become retailing icons in their own right, helping extend the visibility and prestige of the Apple brand. The success of Apple’s retail efforts is also one of the reasons Apple withdrew from the Macworld Expo in 2009 and makes little effort to participate in industry trade shows: the company gets more foot traffic at its retail location than it ever did at those events.

Browett’s appointment to lead Apple’s retail efforts has prompted industry speculation that Apple will focus on Europe as the next significant growth opportunity for its stores—in addition to the UK, Dixons also operates electronics retailers in Scandinavia, Italy, and Greece. Europe has proven a tough nut for American companies to crack in retail: Best Buy shuttered its European megastores last year in part because they couldn’t compete effectively against Browett’s Dixons.

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