Apple only considering outside candidates for new SVP of Retail

crowded apple store

During its major executive shakeup last fall, Apple announced that its newly-hired SVP of Retail John Browett would be leaving the company. The move wasn’t surprising, as Browett had come under heavy fire from the media following drastic retail strategy changes.

What is surprising, though, is that here we are, almost a year later, and Apple hasn’t filled the job yet. But a new report from The Wall Street Journal this afternoon helps shine some light on the situation, saying the company just simply hasn’t found the right fit yet…

The Journal reports:

“Apple’s search for a replacement, handled by recruiters Egon Zehnder International, has gone slowly, people familiar with the matter said, and the company has yet to settle on a finalist after interviewing several external candidates. Among those interviewed but rejected as a poor fit were wireless and telecommunications-industry executives, one such person said. A CEO of a privately held retailer in France spurned Apple’s overtures, believing it would be hard to change Apple’s culture as an outsider, another person said.

Apple doesn’t consider internal candidates to be an option, according to a third person familiar with the matter.

Some potential retail chiefs are wary about taking charge of Apple stores because they say the top brass hasn’t been clear about plans, said one tech-industry recruiter who knows Apple well. “

Since Browett’s departure, Tim Cook has been heading up retail with the help of the arm’s top managers. The team has been reinstating spending, and reversing policy and other decisions that were unpopular with customers during Browett’s six-month tenure as SVP.

“During Mr. Browett’s tenure, employees say, the company’s internal communications shifted to sales from a focus on customer service—an experience that Apple had finely tuned. The push was so strong, one person said, that staff normally assigned to educating customers in one store were told to join the sales floor in between classes.

Customer-satisfaction surveys for some stores began falling in the ensuing months, these people said. That bothered many store managers, who had been taught to aggressively monitor poll results.”

Some pundits have also noted that the consumer-facing aspect of Apple’s stores hasn’t changed in a while. Under Ron Johnson—considered to have been singlehandedly responsible for Apple’s retail success before he left for another job—things changed constantly.

“Apple’s lack of retail leadership with vision and operational skills certainly hasn’t helped the stores, said Craig Johnson, the head of Customer Growth Partners.

The Apple Store experience used to change more regularly, he said. Nearly a decade ago, Apple invented a unique one-on-one education program for customers; it switched to iPod Touches as cash registers in 2009 and, in 2011, using iPads as signs for products around the store.

“Apple needs to recreate and reinvent its once novel retail model, which is now not so novel,” Mr. Johnson said.”

It seems as if Apple’s retail side has been in limbo since Johnson left in 2011. Ron served as VP and SVP at the company for several years before leaving to take on a CEO role at JC Penney. Unfortunately, that opportunity didn’t work out, as he was fired earlier this year.

I wonder why Apple doesn’t just bring him back.