Much has been said about Apple’s Senior Vice President of iOS, Scott Forstall’s ousting from Apple, but very little about Apple Retail Senior Vice President’s John Browett firing after a brief 9-month tenture. Personally, I thought Apple lost a great retail executive when Ron Johnson left to be CEO of J.C. Penney. Johnson played a significant role in making Apple Stores hugely popular. Earlier in the year research company RetailSails stated Apple Stores averages $5,647 per square foot, Tiffany comes in a distant second at $3,085 per square foot. To put those numbers in perspective, Wal-Mart stores average $414 per square foot. Not an easy task for any executive to step in to such a highly regarded position.
At the time of his hiring, many questioned Tim Cook’s choice of Browett, after all his previous retail credentials seemed a bit spotty. Sure, he held CEO position of Dixons and Tesco.com, but as many U.K. shoppers noted Dixons isn’t really known for their stellar customer service and their sales have been lagging for multiple quarters. Browett can not take too much credit for sales per square foot number considering he was just a month into the job when those figures were released.
Workforce management is a huge task for any company to handle and labor is a huge cost for most companies. In the short span of time: Pay raises were issued, then Apple employees were laid off and hours were reduced all in the name of new workforce formulas that were screwy and failed to do what they were supposed to.
It’s a difficult, but manageable task to balance profits and maintain employee well-being and happiness. Browett’s team did not handle the situation well and played out as a public relations nightmare. This mark does not bode well just after a few months into the job.
I think the primary catalyst behind Browett’s ousting is less about what he has done, and about what he didn’t do during his tenure. Browett simply didn’t bring about enough international growth. Apple has opened only its third store in China a few weeks ago, and those stores were probably long on Apple’s dockett prior to Browett’s arrival. When looking for Johnson’s replacement, nearly a year ago, Tim Cook and other analysts stressed the importance of looking for a leader that could be capable of expanding Apple’s international presence. Just last week, Apple gave the boot to South Korea’s Apple head honcho, on the heels of weak Apple sales all the while Korea still does not have any Apple Stores. Apple’s China smartphone market share is lagging and looking forward with very little growth in a very promising market, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Cook was pressured by a very international business savvy board to find someone who can make better headway.
With the next Apple Store executive hiring Tim Cook needs to hire a seasoned executive with international expansion expertise. The senior managers and low-level executives can be capable of handling existing store management and increasing customer service, but Apple’s growth and profits lie outside of existing markets.