Angela Ahrendts Talks Apple Retail in New Interview: 'Retail is Not Dying, But it Has to Evolve'

Apple senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts gave a new interview today at Cannes Lions, an annual international festival in France that celebrates individuals and companies in creative spaces. During her talk, Ahrendts discussed a variety of topics related to Apple and its pivot away from retail "stores" over the last few years to become community gathering places (via NBC News).

angela twitter cannes lions

Ahrendts' discussion also included Apple vice president of marketing communications Tor Myhren, and the SVP of retail explained that Apple's approach is to be "in the human business" and to "humanize technology."

I love the creative arts... that's kind of when we came up with the tagline: maybe we're in the human business. Maybe the largest tech company has these 65,000 kids and maybe it's our job to humanize technology.

Looking to the future of retail in general, Ahrendts mentioned numbers from an analytic firm that suggest while the majority of shopping will move online, many customers will still venture out to physical locations to finalize a purchase. This means that shoppers will use apps and online websites to research products and items, and perhaps reserve them for in-store pickup, much like Apple already does today.

You have your instincts and you use a lot of smart outside guys, and the smart outside guys they don't say retail is dying. They say digital is gonna grow at three times the rate of physical, but in the next five years... 75 percent of people will shop online, shop to learn [about what they want to buy], but 75 percent of business will still be done in physical stores.

Because of this, Ahrendts explained that "retail isn't going away" or "dying," but it will have to "evolve" as time passes. Apple has already made moves to change up Apple retail locations with next-generation layouts that emphasize communal gathering and encourage interactivity during Today at Apple sessions. This plays into another of Ahrendts' talking points in the interview, when she said, "I think [retail] has to serve a bigger purpose than just selling."

Ahrendts also discussed an internal social network that Apple calls "Loop," which was built for the company to measure how well it is doing in its retail mission to keep customers happy, accomplished through surveying both customers and retail employees. Loop is examined by Ph.D. students and results in data that helps Apple executives "improve systems" surrounding its retail business.

Ahrendts went on to discuss Apple store employees:

“They are not hired to sell," she said. "There is no commission, no quotas. What we’ve tried to do is keep uniting them around the big vision and the impact we want to make.”

Ahrendts routinely discusses Apple's next-generation retail plans in interviews, and last year even appeared onstage at the iPhone X event to briefly talk about retail and Today at Apple sessions. Shortly following that September event, Ahrendts climbed to the 13th spot on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list for 2017, jumping from 14th in 2016 and 16th in 2015.

Top Rated Comments

oneMadRssn Avatar
35 months ago
Retail selling products is dying. Almost all stores that sell "things" around my area have closed. The exceptions are stores that sell big things, expensive things, and perishable things, like furniture stores, art galleries, and groceries.

Instead, main street and malls are now full of services - hair and spa, banks, restaurants, escape the room type of activities, etc. These don't sell a thing, but rather sell a service that cannot be delivered over the internet.

I think the reason Apple has succeeded in retail is because they're stores primarily provide a service. Everytime I'm in an Apple store, 90% of the people there are for a genius appointment or a training of some kind. They buy accessories while there sometimes.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
6502 Avatar
35 months ago
Angela, you've done very well at Apple raking in millions while doing little more than maintaining the status quo that Ron Johnson established. How about you champion your AppleStore employees and pay them a decent livable wage?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThunderSkunk Avatar
35 months ago
Turning your retail space into a cultural hangout is what high-end bike shops traditionally do when they don't sell enough high margin/low volume product to make ends meet. Then 2 out of 3 run out of investment capital in a few years and go away, because ultimately you can't make the high cost of retail space pay for itself as a happytime PR exercise. All of that is running away from the problem. When people want to go somewhere to hang out, they go to parks and beaches and cafes. The era of Malls as popular temples of consumer culture ended 2 decades ago.

Fixing the problem means filling the store with products people want to see, touch, experience & desire. Make products that do that again, and fix the problem.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Denmac1 Avatar
35 months ago
Sure, retail could die if you don't have anything new and exciting or of relevance to offer.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BornAgainMac Avatar
35 months ago
She has to look like she is working so that she still has a job at Apple.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
avanpelt Avatar
35 months ago
I get what Angela's trying to do in terms of making the Apple Store a "destination", but I just don't see it being successful. Foot traffic at most malls is way down compared to five years ago. I don't see Apple being able to reverse that trend.

I live 15 minutes from one of the biggest malls in the Atlanta Metro area. Even though I'd say foot traffic is down at that mall, if I need to go to the Apple Store, I still have to park and then it takes five to ten minutes to walk to the Apple Store if I park at the closest entrance. There's no way I'm doing that to go have coffee and get an Apple training session when I can sit at home, drink my own coffee, put my feet up, and watch YouTube videos that will show me the same thing I'd learn at the Apple Store. I go to the Apple Store for one reason and one reason only: hardware repair that I can't do myself.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
steam apple logo

Valve Ordered to Give Apple Information on 436 Steam Games As Part of Epic Games Legal Case

Thursday February 25, 2021 1:50 am PST by
Valve, the makers behind popular game distribution platform Steam, will be forced to hand over aggregate historical sales, price, and other information on 436 games hosted on the store to Apple, as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case. As reported in a paywalled report by Law360, during a virtual discovery hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...
apple store macarthur center

Apple Store at MacArthur Center in Virginia Permanently Closing Following Years of Safety Issues at Shopping Mall

Thursday February 25, 2021 4:45 pm PST by
Apple today indicated that its retail store at the MacArthur Center shopping mall in Norfolk, Virginia will be permanently closing after over 14 years of business, although an exact closure date has yet to be announced by the company. Apple has assured that it will be offering all employees at the store other positions within Apple, and said that it looks forward to continuing to serve...
qualcomm snapdragon x60 5g

iPhone 13 Lineup Expected to Use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 Modem With Several 5G Improvements

Wednesday February 24, 2021 8:10 am PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 13 lineup will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem, with Samsung to handle manufacturing of the chip, according to DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone...
anker magsafe powercore battery pack

Anker Releases MagSafe-Compatible Battery Pack for iPhone 12 Lineup

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:49 am PST by
Following rumors that Apple is working on a MagSafe battery pack for iPhone 12 models, popular accessory maker Anker has beaten Apple to the punch with the release of its PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank. First previewed at CES 2021, the PowerCore battery pack magnetically attaches to the back of any iPhone 12 model and provides 5W of wireless charging. With a 5,000 mAh capacity,...