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Apple CEO Tim Cook allegedly defends new SVP of Retail amid criticisms

post #1 of 55
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As some pundits have questioned the wisdom in Apple's decision to bring an outsider in as its new Senior Vice President of Retail, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has reportedly defended the hiring in an email, noting that he talked to many people and Dixons CEO John Browett was "the best by far."

The Cupertino, Calif., company surprised industry watchers on Monday when it announced that it had hired Browett as its new head of retail. Some noted that the move was uncharacteristic for the company, as Apple's executive team is largely composed of long-time veterans.

Still others worried that Browett would change Apple Stores to become more like Dixons' locations, which the Telegraph recently described as "functional and competitive on price, but…not a place for anyone other than a die-hard technophile to while away a Sunday afternoon."

One concerned Apple customer went so far as to express his fears directly to Cook in an email. U.K. blogger and photographer Tony Hart wrote that Dixons has a "spectacularly bad reputation" and are considered to be "one of the worst retailers in the U.K."

"Please do not let standards slip," he pleaded. "Hopefully John Browett will do a superb job, and none of my concerns will come to fruition, but please, do not turn Apple's retail experience into Dixons or allow the Apple brand to become watered down and weak."

Cook allegedly responded within hours: "I talked to many people and John was the best by far. I think you will be as pleased as I am. His role isn't to bring Dixons to Apple, [it's] to bring Apple to an even higher level of customer service and satisfaction."

Though emails are relatively easy to fake and Hart himself claims that "it's hard to be sure whether the writer of the email was Tim Cook himself or simply someone writing on his behalf," the message's contents do line up with the company's public stance on Browett's hiring.

For instance, Cook said earlier this week in a press release that Browett shares the same commitment to customer service "like no one else" the company had met. “We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple,” he added.


John Browett, Apple's new SVP of Retail. | Credit: Dixons


Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had hired executive headhunter firm Egon Zehnder to help with the search for a replacement for then retail chief Ron Johnson, who had announced he was to leave Apple for J.C. Penney in November 2011. According to the Telegraph, Browett was at first resistant to interview for the job, so much so that a friend at the recruiting firm "had to strong arm him into the initial interview."

Browett was then reportedly "quickly won over" by the humility and drive of Apple's leadership. The report noted that he and Cook bonded over their commitment to excellence in customer service.

Though others have voiced concerns about the hire, analysts covering Apple have generally reacted favorably to the news. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said on Wednesday that she considers Browett "a net positive hire." RBC's Mike Abramsky called Browett "well regarded" and "proactive."

UBS analyst Maynard Um described Cook's first senior management hiring as "positive in helping to further drive international expansion." According to him, Browett's fit with Apple is that, while at Dixons, he "executed internal changes and better shopping & advisory experiences (similar to Apple's focus on the customer experience)."

Browett is set to relocate to Apple's Cupertino headquarters in April. He holds a degree from Cambridge and an MBA from Wharton Business School. Prior to joining Dixons in 2007, he was CEO of Tesco.com.
post #2 of 55
Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?
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post #3 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said on Wednesday that she considers Browett "a net positive hire."

Faint praise indeed.
post #4 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?

I love Fresh and Easy.
post #5 of 55
It's definitely real. I received the same reply as Tony after emailing Tim.
post #6 of 55
I'm watching. I may place stop-loss orders on my modest AAPL holding.
post #7 of 55
Let me understand this: it makes sense for an Apple-type guy to end up at a J C Penney, but not for a J C Penney-type to end up at Apple? How is some guy from the Telegraph able to judge this any better than Apple?
post #8 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?

Bit of a stretch there, Mr. Huber. Don't think he had anything to do with F & E, and even so, this kind of thing happens when chains expand. Cf. Starbucks a few years ago when Schultz came back. And Hemet and Bakersfield are in the L.A. area? No Brit could psych out those markets in advance.
post #9 of 55
That guy was great on "The Kids In The Hall"
post #10 of 55
Apple didn't hire Ron Johnson to bring Target to the Apple Stores either.. Worked out just fine for Apple.
post #11 of 55
I have no idea if he'll be good. But I did wonder about this (my emphasis) "Browett was at first resistant to interview for the job, so much so that a friend at the recruiting firm "had to strong arm him into the initial interview.""
post #12 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?

Yes coz the dude that hasn't worked at Tesco since the early 2000s is responsible for stores closing left and right in the LA area.
post #13 of 55
Cook knows best how to run Apple. Jobs knew it too. You supported Jobs, you should support Cook too, and quit scrutinizing his decisions.
post #14 of 55
"...noting that he talked to many people and Dixons CEO John Browett was "the best by far.""

Keep looking.
post #15 of 55
Never saw a single reason to question one of Cook's decisions.
post #16 of 55
How many retailers in the consumer electronics industry have done well in the recession?

Browett surely knows the segment of retail Apple needs.
post #17 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by anfboymn View Post

Cook knows best how to run Apple. Jobs knew it too. You supported Jobs, you should support Cook too, and quit scrutinizing his decisions.

Replace "Cook" with "Sculley" in that statement.
Is it always true that Jobs' hand-picked CEOs are somehow above scrutiny?

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post #18 of 55
My biggest concern is this new guy doesn't look much like a magician. This is bad news for the future of Apple.
post #19 of 55
Browett was NEVER CEO of Tesco; he ran it's Home Delivery service called "Tesco Online". He WAS however CEO of Dixons, where his influence was only noticeable by its lack of effect. Maybe not his fault, but please don't give him credit where none is due.

As for Dixons having "competitive prices" don't make me laugh! They are consistently expensive, as anyone with no competitors is. At least 30% more than you can buy on the internet or in different European countries.

Tim Cook is right to look for someone who understands Europe better; it's a very undeveloped market for Apple with little effort having been made to sell there.
post #20 of 55
My experience has been that British managers are surprisingly tricky to work with. The cultural gap is much greater than anyone at first appreciates.
I was below them and not above them as Cook is, but senior US managers in my organization had similar issues.
Unless either Cook has real experience working with British executives, or Browett knows how to communicate with Americans, this could be a more difficult match than it first appears. The reason it's tricky is that British and Americans executives with little prior experience may think they understand each other, but they really don't. The fact that Browett appears to have little if any US retail experience is another concern. Americans and British do not shop the same way.
His international experience is really quite minimal. Dixons is a UK chain with a smattering of subsidiaries in minor European locales, and it lost 80% of its stock value under Browett's tenure (though recall that retail has been hit hard in Europe).
Having said all that, the guy is probably very smart and if he is flexible and willing to learn, may be able to adjust quickly and prove his worth. Like anybody in a new job, he should be given some time, at least a year, before anyone comes to conclusions. But from outside, the choice does look a little odd to me.
post #21 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SwissMac2 View Post

Tim Cook is right to look for someone who understands Europe better; it's a very undeveloped market for Apple with little effort having been made to sell there.

True, but does Browett really understand Europe? Dixons has no stores in France or Germany, the most important markets and each with a particular culture. Some random holdings in Scandinavia, Turkey, Greece, and the Czech Republic, not even using the Dixons name, are all I can find mention of.
post #22 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?

The Fresh 'n' Easy stores I've been in look horrendous. The aisles are too narrow, the floors are unfinished, the lighting is annoying, and the food looks unappealing. As you may be able to tell, I was not impressed.

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post #23 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldMacGuy View Post

I'm watching. I may place stop-loss orders on my modest AAPL holding.

No need to panic yet, old man.

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post #24 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post

Apple didn't hire Ron Johnson to bring Target to the Apple Stores either.. Worked out just fine for Apple.

Excellent point.

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post #25 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by eksodos View Post

My biggest concern is this new guy doesn't look much like a magician. This is bad news for the future of Apple.

On the other hand, who really knew of Jony Ive before he shone brightly at Apple? A few people certainly knew of his talent, but Apple made him world famous.

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post #26 of 55
If this dude does not work out, they can replace him. Papermaster was a dud and Apple barely missed a beat. Stop worrying
post #27 of 55
Would Steve Jobs have defended his decision? NO!

I had no concerns about the appointment of Browett until Cook found it necessary to defend the decision. Now I not only have concerns about Browett but more importantly whether Cook is qualified to be the CEO of Apple. When Jobs died he should have willed his cojones to Cook.
post #28 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by NapyBlue View Post

Would Steve Jobs have defended his decision? NO!

Yes, because Steve Jobs never defended a single position that he took.

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There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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post #29 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Excellent point.

How bad was/is Target?

Dixon's, Currys, PC World etc., are really really bad, they are places you avoid. Windows papered with posters about the latest sales (and there are always sales), hundreds of different products thrown together with no thought or organisation. You will always find at least one broken product - something physically damaged - chained to a counter. Staff are obviously on commission - a friend of mine was told that she couldn't use her laptop with out MS Office and antivirus software. Not only that but staff pounce on you. The only way to get rid of them is to ask a question about how something functions, then they have to go find a manager.

These places are hardware supermarkets, they are the kind of places that suck the joy out of purchases, you leave feeling like you either been fleeced or harrassed.

This is this guys legacy. High level customer service is completely missing from anything to do with Dixons. The differences between Dixons Group shops and Apple Stores is the difference between McDonalds and 3 star Michelin restaurants.
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post #30 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Replace "Cook" with "Sculley" in that statement.
Is it always true that Jobs' hand-picked CEOs are somehow above scrutiny?

Jobs 1.0 couldn't gauge talent to save his life. Hence Sculley.

Jobs 2.0 was a master at it. Hence Cook.

I agree with the previous poster.

Thompson
post #31 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by NapyBlue View Post

Would Steve Jobs have defended his decision? NO!

I had no concerns about the appointment of Browett until Cook found it necessary to defend the decision. Now I not only have concerns about Browett but more importantly whether Cook is qualified to be the CEO of Apple. When Jobs died he should have willed his cojones to Cook.

Jobs frequently sent back e-mails defending or explaining something. Often it was more of a high-brow response, but the underlying defense mechanism was the same. Only the tone was different. Here's another Jobsism for you: "No big deal."

Thompson
post #32 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Yes, because Steve Jobs never defended a single position that he took.


The (legitimate) concern here is: can a British ex CEO of Dixons GET Apple? For anyone who has stepped into a Dixons store the obvious answer is Hell No. Dixons and Currys are like low end Best Buys. And customer service? Probably on par with BB or aittle below. You know, expert advice consists of the 'expert' reading the box and then delivering the killer - "if it doesn't work you can just bring it back"
post #33 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magoo View Post

How bad was/is Target?

Dixon's, Currys, PC World etc., are really really bad, they are places you avoid. Windows papered with posters about the latest sales (and there are always sales), hundreds of different products thrown together with no thought or organisation. You will always find at least one broken product - something physically damaged - chained to a counter. Staff are obviously on commission - a friend of mine was told that she couldn't use her laptop with out MS Office and antivirus software. Not only that but staff pounce on you. The only way to get rid of them is to ask a question about how something functions, then they have to go find a manager.

These places are hardware supermarkets, they are the kind of places that suck the joy out of purchases, you leave feeling like you either been fleeced or harrassed.

This is this guys legacy. High level customer service is completely missing from anything to do with Dixons. The differences between Dixons Group shops and Apple Stores is the difference between McDonalds and 3 star Michelin restaurants.

Spot on. Target today is way above Dixons et all. A high end Wollies (I know, that sounds just wrong)
post #34 of 55
Dixon's? Never heard of it.
post #35 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by thompr View Post

Jobs 1.0 couldn't gauge talent to save his life. Hence Sculley.

Jobs 2.0 was a master at it. Hence Cook.

I agree with the previous poster.

Thompson

I hope you're right and I'm wrong, because I love visiting the Apple Store. If Browett screws this up, it's on Cook's hands.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #36 of 55
I'm thoroughly shocked Tim Cook didn't consult me before making this decision. I could have provided insight that would have been invaluable to him. Certainly Steve Jobs would have.

/sarcasm
post #37 of 55
"I hired him because he has big brown eyes and a fabulous accent. And I don't want to hear about no Dixon's."

Signed, Tim Cook.
post #38 of 55
If "customer service and satisfaction" is so important to Mr Browett why wasn't he able to improve either at Dixons (Currys & PC World) over the past 4 years as CEO. Their customer service is just as bad today as it ever was.

I wish the guy well and I hope he does a good job but I can only conclude from his appointment that Tim Cook wants a more aggressive retail sales push over the next few years.
post #39 of 55
The comments so far take no account of this guy's international educational background. Dummies don't get into or graduate from Cambridge and Wharton. Also, let's hear what some of his business colleagues have to say about him. There should be some business writers chasing down this aspect of the story now.

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post #40 of 55
The current state of the Dixons/currys retail chain should have said more than enough about this guys ability to manage a large retail operation....let alone an international retail operation.

The service provided at these outlets can best be described as consistently appalling. There is an extremely limited product knowledge available on the sales floor, and more often than not questions about products are not answered or simply plain wrong.

It is extremely worrying that one of the reasons this guy has been selected is because of his 'service focus' I would suggest that an exec fromJohn Lewis or Marks and Spencers would be more in line with the apple brand..

I can only imagine that apple were really scraping the barrel if he is the best they found....and i'm basing this opinion on the spectacularly poor performance his current brands demonstrate in the areas of service...

Tim Cook obviously has never visited on of the Dixons/Currys Stores.....shame..
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