9to5Mac's Mark Gurman is back with yet another original Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) story. This time he brings us inside details on former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts' plan to reinvigorate Apple's retail experience. Her plans can be viewed as a three-part vision: China, mobile payments, and a revamped "end-to-end Apple Store sales experience," Gurman says.
A vision, of course, is useless if Ahrendts can't fit into Apple's culture. This was allegedly one of the main problems with Apple's last hire for the head of retail position. Former Dixons retail CEO John Browett reportedly didn't mesh with Apple's culture and only lasted about six months at the company. Ahrendts, fortunately, doesn't seem to have this problem.
Ahrendts' clear vision for the future of retail, cultural fit, and amicability with employees, and most importantly, her support, trust, and encouragement from employees, lead retail executives and store workers alike to believe that she will be able to successfully move Apple Retail past the legacy experience built by Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson (and the shadow of John Browett) and bring it into the future.
Given the size of her ambitions she will undoubtedly require the support of her colleagues.
While it's no surprise, it's reaffirming to hear that Ahrendts will make China a key focus in Apple's retail strategy. Working directly with Apple's head of China retail, Denny Tuza, Ahrendts will emphasize marketing initiatives targeting the growing Chinese sector. Her efforts come at the opportune time; Apple is planning to triple its current store count from just ten to thirty by 2016.
Mobile payments will be another major area of interest under Ahrendts. Gurman says she will use an improved mobile payments interface to create a better customer experience. Heading up Apple's online retail experience as well, Ahrendts plans to seamlessly integrate payment solutions for the two storefronts to create a better customer experience.
And in somewhat of a side note, Ahrendts' focus on mobile payments offers more confirmation that Apple is likely working on a mobile payments service for a possible 2014 launch.
Customer experience will be a key in Ahrendts' new vision. Her emphasis on the experience is end to end, with a plan to give it a complete overhaul.
From the point in which a customer finds the product he or she wants to purchase, to how they discuss the product with Apple Store employees, to how they pay for the product, Ahrendts would like to redesign the complete experience.
Can retail sales trend upward again?
Apple is arguably the model retailer. eMarketer recently ranked the Apple Store first in trailing-12-month retail sales per square foot in the U.S. And no other store across the globe has reported a higher number, making it likely that Apple is the most successful retailer in the world when measured by sales per square foot.
But the tech giant is showing some signs of a slowdown in its retail arm. In 2013, for instance, total retail revenue actually slipped slightly from $51.5 million to $50.2 million. And in Apple's most recent quarter, retail sales were flat on a year-over-year basis despite 5% growth in Apple's total top line and more store openings.
With Ahrendt officially on board, Apple investors will be hoping she can help the company revive its retail experience. The importance of her role couldn't be emphasized enough. If her efforts are successful, Apple will bolster one of the most important interactions current and potential Apple's customers have with the company.
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