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Forrester Analyst Calls Angela Ahrendts' Move to Apple 'Baffling'

Pundits react to the Burberry surprise

Angela Ahrendts | Photo: Simon Dawson

Apple made waves this morning by poaching Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, tapping the 53-year-old for a newly created role of senior vice president of retail and online stores. Essentially, the new exec will commandeer Apple's strategy for bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce. Christopher Bailey will take over as Burberry's chief executive officer and chief creative officer—he's served in the latter capacity for the last 12 years.

Interestingly, two pundits had vastly different reactions to the Ahrendts news. Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research retail analyst, sounded shocked that Ahrendts would leave Burberry's top spot for a position under Apple CEO Tim Cook.

"It's a truly baffling move," she said. "There must be a big pay-off at the end. She's leaving a glamorous job where she's the boss, where she's built market cap, where she can do anything she wants. People like Ahrendts take board positions and become Tim Cook's boss. I'm sure they are paying her a ton of money. Maybe they are grooming her to take over, but it seems odd."

Carolina Milanesi, Gartner's research VP, on the other hand, reacted by saying, "I believe this is a good match for Apple. Burberry's CEO brings expertise in dealing with a good balance of popularity and status. ...From a retail experience. it is about being able to deal with more and more people going through the stores while keeping the high-touch customer experience that they are known for."

While Apple's brand is still extremely strong, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant's bottom line has slumped. Burberry revenues haven't met analyst expectations this year, either, but the brand has recently been lauded as a shining example of retail evolving in the digital age.

For example, Google execs recently praised Burberry during Advertising Week. (Maybe Apple wasn't Ahrendts' only recent suitor.) And Burberry's stores in locations like Chicago's Magnificent Mile are cutting edge, with jaw-dropping digital displays and staffers wired up with iPads and other tech bells-and-whistles.

But Apple's stores, typically, are much, much bigger than Burberry's. And maybe that's the motivation behind the design-minded Ahrendts' big move—spatial canvases at increased scale. 

"It's a different kettle of fish, that's for sure," Mulpuru added.

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