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Why Apple's new retail chief is the right woman for the job

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Angela Ahrendts (Credit: TEDx/YouTube)
Angela Ahrendts (Credit: TEDx/YouTube)

Apple shocked both the worlds of technology and high fashion last fall when the company announced that it was poaching Angela Ahrendts, then CEO of luxury apparel and lifestyle label Burberry, to assume command of the lucrative Apple retail operation. Ahrendts is due to take the reins of a powerful but daunting job this spring, and it's unclear yet what her new designs for the Apple retail experience might entail (much less whether an Apple smartwatch will be involved). But extensive interviews she gave to Fast Company last summer and fall, just published this week, yield clues about her work style, perspective and outlook.

For instance, Ahrendts is from Indiana and true to the Midwestern American culture, she sees empathizing with customers and colleagues as a core part of the retail experience. She's quick with a "thank you." But she's also known as an intense and commanding presence, communicating often with all of 11,000 of Burberry's employees and urging them to do more to meet quarterly goals. Whatever she ends up doing with the iconic Apple Stores, it better be drastic, as Fast Company's interviews with employees reveal an embittered and stagnant corporate culture with a worrisome disconnect between the online and physical retail units.