Currys and PC World 2-in-1 Superstore

Currys and PC World 2-in-1 Superstore | Image courtesy of Dixons

So today we got the answer to a question that we’ve been pondering for a number of months and we got Tim Cook’s first major hire as the official CEO of Apple. But I for one am a little skeptical.

Apple’s former chief of retail announced last year that he would be departing Apple to become CEO of J.C. Penney. The loss of Ron Johnson at the time seemed like a huge deal, Apple’s retail stores have been a shining example of retail success and many of the stores themselves are an amazing example of crossing the paths of old architecture and a contemporary company.

I for one am a huge Apple Store fan, and I’m lucky enough to live not too far from my favourite Apple store in London’s Covent Garden. To me Apple’s retail stores really define how the company has changed, their growing size and pervasiveness reflects Apple’s growing size and its sometimes unwelcome foray into unfettered markets. But also the diversity of these stores reflects Apple’s diversity, not just in products but also in its people and of course the efficiency and the technological boundaries pushed within the walls of an Apple retail store are admired the around the world—think Easy Pay and personal pickup as just two amazing examples.

This success which can be witnessed with your own eyes can also be witnessed in Apple’s financials, during the last reported quarter individual store quarterly revenue was up 43 percent year-over-year to $17.3 million and during the quarter, which included the busy holiday shopping season, each store hosted 22,000 visitors per week.

All of this was in part Ron Johnson’s vision, with a heavy dose of Steve Jobs, and he put it into reality.

Today Apple announced that Tim Cook had hired someone to take over Johnson’s role as head of Apple’s retail chain, in charge of the look and feel and operations of over 300 stores worldwide and also scouting out new stores, helping in their design and bringing them to fruition.

John Browett Apple's Senior Vice Present of Retail

John Browett Apple's Senior Vice Present of Retail

The man Cook chose was John Browett and as a resident of the UK I’m all too familiar with Browett’s work. Browett is the CEO of British brand Dixons which holds a large chain of stores across the country in the same name but also have stores under different brands, namely PC World, Currys.digital, Equanet and Dixons Travel as well as running the online Dixons.co.uk. Dixons also produce computers under the Advent Computer brand.

Before joining Dixons in 2007 Browett was CEO of of Tesco.com another big retail player in the UK part of the huge Tesco group.

For us British these brands are everywhere, high streets in every single town across the country will feature at least one of Dixons’ stores and they’re awful.

Stores like Currys.digital and PC World are the epitome of what Steve Jobs did not want Apple’s retail stores to be like. These stores are full to the brim with low quality, over priced products forced upon customers by retail staff who will then try and unload a whole bunch of accessories and software that is neither required or of any quality.

But Browett was CEO of Dixons, not directly in charge of the look, feel or quality of its retail stores and to be fair these stores have been on high streets for decades. As CEO Browett was in charge of operating the company and whilst Browett was brought on board to help redefine the retail mission he was occupied with guiding the huge retail chain through a devastating recession watching the stock price erode and profits dry up. In 2011 the company reported a reduction in profits again and the forecast wasn’t pretty, not something Apple is familiar with.

Browett doesn’t depart from Dixons until April 20, leaving Apple without a retail chief for several months more. Cook’s decision to hire Browett is interesting to say the least, Browett has not shown strong leadership at Dixons, despite being described as a huge loss there, and the retail stores are far from an example of good retail stores.

We’ll just have to wait and see how Browett performs at Apple over the next couple of years.