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Angela Ahrendts on why retailers need to think different

Lauretta Roberts
29 January 2019

Along with Christopher Bailey, Angela Ahrendts was credited with turning Burberry into a global luxury powerhouse. Now at Apple she is applying the tech giant's legendary mantra – "Think Different" – to its approach to retail and believes other brands need to do the same.

Ahrendts said the current model of assessing the performance of your retail business "door by door" and channel by channel was out of date and missed the point. In an interview with acclaimed fashion writer Suzy Menkes in the inaugural edition of Vogue Business, the new newsletter-led global title for fashion professionals unveiled today, Ahrendts advocates a "one customer, one brand" approach.

“From a financial perspective we look at [our stores] differently. We look at Los Angeles and say, what do we want to achieve there? Now, my big flagship may not make as much money as my store over in Century City, but I’m looking at all the customers in LA from all these different touch points. What’s the profitability for those customers in LA?

“It’s a very different way from traditional retailers, who think door by door by door,” she said. “Who think, ‘I’m going to close that door because it wasn’t profitable.’"

Ahrendts is continuing the legacy of Apple's charismatic and visionary founder Steve Jobs who said, upon moving into retail, that the role of the store was not to sell but to "enrich [the customers'] lives and always through the lens of education."

The executive was speaking to Vogue Business on the eve of the opening of a new Apple store in the Carnegie Library in Washington DC, where the brand was inspired by the community ethos and approach by the library's founder. “Carnegie envisioned it years ago when he had the reading room. For Apple, we’ll have field trips with busloads of kids; or they will be coming in learning to code every morning. It’s a different type of investment," Ahrendts said.

Despite an apparent addiction to digital technology Ahrendts said she believed that digitally native millennials craved human interaction more than anything else, which is why Apple stores were built around experience and interaction.

“I think as humans we still need gathering places,” Ahrendts says. “And when you are serving digital natives, the thing they long for more than anything is human connection. Eye contact.”

Publisher Condé Nast announced the launch of Vogue Business yesterday. The title will take a newsletter approach to delivering fact- and data-led content on the global fashion market. At the beginning the newsletter will be published twice weekly and will be free of charge with the publisher concentrating on sign-ups and engagement this year with a view to moving to paid subscription in the future.

Extracts of this article have been published with the permission of Vogue Business. Read the full article here. 

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