Apple turns to Dixons for new retail chief

Apple has appointed John Browett, chief executive of British electronics retailer Dixons, as head of its retail store operation.

He will join the US company in April, replacing Ron Johnson who was named last June as the new chief executive of JC Penney, the US department store chain.

Mr Browett, who has been head of Dixons since 2007, will take responsibility for the expansion of Apple’s retail stores worldwide and will report directly to Tim Cook, chief executive.

“This is a blow to Dixons as we think Browett has done a good job of turning Dixons around in the face of an extremely difficult macro-environment,” said Caroline Gulliver, an analyst at Espirito Santo. Shares in Dixons closed down 7.5 per cent at 14.1p.

Apple reported record quarterly results for its stores last week, with revenues of $6.1bn in the period, up 59 per cent on the same period a year earlier.

It opened four new stores during the quarter – three in Europe and one at Grand Central Station in New York – to bring its total to 361 worldwide. The company plans to open another 40 stores over the next year, with 75 per cent of these outside the US.

The first Apple Store opened in 2001 to some scepticism from analysts, who doubted the company’s retail credentials. Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder was unhappy with the way the company’s products were presented in other stores and Mr Johnson introduced the concept of light, airy, uncluttered spaces where the devices became the centre of attention.

Mike Abramsky, analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note that Mr Browett was well regarded in retail circles and his focus on customer service matched Apple’s ideals: “Browett has shunned formality in favour of operational excellence and once quipped to the press about his revamped retail strategy: ‘Welcome to the technology temple of delight’,” he said.

Before joining Dixons, Mr Browett worked for Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer by sales, where he headed the group’s online operation. He had previously been an adviser on retail and consumer goods at Boston Consulting Group.

Dixons said in a statement that Mr Browett would step down from the board in February and leave the company on April 20, after a handover period. He will be replaced by Sebastian James, group operations director.

“Dixons retail is a great business, and with the support of a very strong management team we have made excellent progress in transforming the group into the leading customer focused specialist electrical retailer in its markets,” Mr Browett said.

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