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
47 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
47 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
47 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
47 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
47 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
47 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)

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
safari icon blue banner

Safari Bug Allows Websites to Track Your Recent Browsing Activity in Real Time

Sunday January 16, 2022 3:37 pm PST by
A bug in WebKit's implementation of a JavaScript API called IndexedDB can reveal your recent browsing history and even your identity, according to a blog post shared on Friday by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS. In a nutshell, the bug allows any website that uses IndexedDB to access the names of IndexedDB databases generated by other websites during a user's browsing session....
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole 16x9 120hz

Analyst: All iPhone 14 Models to Feature 120Hz Displays, 6GB of RAM, and More

Friday January 14, 2022 7:02 am PST by
Apple is rumored to announce four new iPhone 14 models in September, and ahead of time, analyst Jeff Pu has outlined his expectations for the devices. In a research note with Haitong International Securities, obtained by MacRumors, Pu claimed that all iPhone 14 models will feature ProMotion displays, compared to only Pro models currently. ProMotion enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz ...