Five reasons Burberry's CEO is perfect for Apple

The house that Jobs built looks across the pond

Published October 15, 2013 2:36PM (EDT)

1. She gets digital: Ahrendts is considered a pioneer in bringing upmarket fashion online, and in recent years Burberry has been as comfortable talking about smartphones as skirt lengths. Its latest annual report, which shows revenues have grown from £740m when Ahrendts joined, in January 2006, to almost £2bn today, forecasts the "dissolution of boundaries separating physical and digital channels".

Burberry says that while the global recession has meant soft footfall instore, online has helped pick up the slack. Burberry uses social media extensively, building excitement around its collections by photographing clothes before they leave the studio and backstage before they appear on the catwalk. Ahrendts has already worked closely with Apple. Burberry helped launch the iPhone 5S by using dozens of them to live stream its London catwalk show. delivers in more than 100 countries and the website has been translated into eight languages, including Korean and Spanish.

At Burberry, her vision was to "serve completely any consumer on any platform in any geography". It is an ambition she may well bring to Apple.

2. She understands luxury: Ahrendts has helped solidify Burberry's position as a global luxury brand but also modernised its image, making it relevant to a younger audience by using the power of social media.

3. She is an American: But she also understands Europe and China. Apple's previous high-profile retail boss, John Browett, had only ever worked for British companies; Ahrendts rose through the ranks at the US fashion labels Liz Claiborne and DKNY before moving to the UK to run Burberry. While in Europe, she has proved adept at exporting a classic English brand to the four corners of the globe.

Ahrendts' experience of marketing a luxury brand in China, a country Apple has found hard to crack, will be highly attractive to the tech company.

Burberry has 69 stores in China, and last year 14% of its income came from there.

4. She gets retail: Apple's store portfolio may be too small and straining to cope with the demands of millions of new iPad and iPhone owners. Having built up a global network of stores for Burberry, Ahrendts understands where Apple should be and how it can deliver better service in stores.

At Burberry, Ahrendts and her predecessor, Rose Marie Bravo, revitalised the company by reclaiming control of the retail experience. They bought up the distributors that had previously managed Burberry's frontline so that direct sales, both through physical shops and online, now contribute 71% of revenue. At nearly $19bn a year, Apple's income from its own stores dwarfs Burberry's – but it is still just 12% of the total. That's a small but growing proportion, which has doubled in the last two years and is likely to grow further under the new boss.

5. She understands the crossover between fashion and technology: Apple wants to get into wearables with its iWatch; and her business is clothes. Burberry's Regent Street outlet, just down the road from Apple's London flagship store, has been billed as the most technologically advanced fashion shop in the world. It features magic mirrors that transform into screens when triggered by microchips hidden in the garments. Customers trying on a piece of clothing will be shown a film about how it was made and footage of the item on the catwalk. It also has interactive elements, such as areas where customers can design their own trenchcoats.

This article originally appeared on





Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Apple Burberry Ceos Digital Marketing The Guardian