John Browett tells why he sucked as Apple’s short-lived retail boss

John Browett became Apple’s head of retail in January 2012, two months after the Apple Store father Ron Johnson had left the company for a CEO position at JC Penney. His stint at Apple was a brief one: Browett would last on the job a little over six months.

Partly responsible for the silly Apple Store campaign, Browett single-handily alienated retail staff after proposing layoffs in a bid to prove his worth to the bosses. “We messed up,” he admitted, but it was already too late for apologies.

Having tarnished the Apple brand, the former Dixons boss quickly fell out of favor with CEO Tim Cook, who fired Browett alongside iOS boss Scott Forstall in a major August management shakeup.

Finding a new role as CEO of Monsoon Accessorize, UK’s low-cost women fashion and accessory retailer, Browett now reflects on his experience as Apple’s short-lived retail boss. He told attendees of the Retail Week Live conference that he is a “kinder person” now and admitted he just couldn’t fit within the iPhone maker’s demanding corporate culture and work ethos

“Apple is a truly fantastic business,” Browett begins, adding his firing was “probably the best thing that happened to me,” according to The Independent.

“It made things clear about who I am and what I am like to work with, and it will make me much better at my job in the future,” he remarked before launching into an expose about his experience as Apple’s SVP of Retail:

The people are great, they’ve got great products, it’s got a great culture and I loved working there, it’s a fantastic business.

The issue there was that I just didn’t fit within the way they run the business.

It was one of those things where you’re rejected for fit rather than competency.

I’m not so sure about being let go over not fitting in.

John Browett at Apple Store 001

I’m gonna actually go on a limb and say it outright: Browett was hopelessly incompetent to lead Apple’s retail business in the first place. Apple is America’s most admired retailer, outranking Tiffany in U.S. retail sales per square foot – and that’s no small feat.

And yet, all of a sudden here comes a guy who has no experience with high technology retailing whatsoever. And what’s his first order of business? Layoffs. Having angered Apple’s already strained and underpaid retail army and being booted from the company, Browett now says Apple taught him “how not to treat staff”, seemingly forgetting he used to favor Excell spreadsheet over employees.

Apple Store (Wangfujung, Beijing, exterior 003)

What’s really unsettling is that Tim Cook would somehow miss what UK fans suspected all along, that Browett would prove a terrible fit for the company.

“John Browett is the best candidate by far,” Tim Cook said at the time.

Meanwhile, Apple’s search for a new SVP of Retail continues.

Making matters worse, the company’s VP of Retail Jerry McDougal, who was Ron Johnson’s right hand man, left Apple as well, another blow given he was being considered as John Browett’s most likely replacement.

While the company continues search for a successor to Browett, its retail teams are currently reporting directly to Tim Cook, putting additional pressure on the already strained CEO.

JC Penney’s disappointing fourth-quarter results prompted market watchers to speculate that Ron Johnson could step down as the CEO of the American department store chain.

Should such an outcome be in the cards, there’s a possibility that Apple may just re-hire Johnson and solve its retail problems. That would surely be an encouraging sign in a sea of bad news that’s been hammering the Apple stock lately.

After all, Apple for a similar reason (lack of a competent replacement) un-retired Bob Mansfield to lead a new Technologies division which puts Apple’s wireless and semiconductor teams under the same roof.

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