Apple hires Dixons chief to drive global retail

Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:20pm EST
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By James Davey and Poornima Gupta

LONDON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc has hired Dixons Chief Executive John Browett, who revived the British electronics retailer by emphasizing customer service, to lead the iPad maker's global retail expansion.

Apple chief Tim Cook, making his first high-profile hire since taking the helm of the world's largest technology company, lured the well-regarded industry executive to fill a critical post once held by Ron Johnson, another outsider who left Target Corp to join Apple in 2000.

Johnson resigned from Apple last November to join retailer J.C. Penney Co Inc as chief executive.

Browett, Dixons' CEO since 2007, was previously chief executive of Tesco Plc's successful online shopping site. He will oversee Apple's retail strategy and the expansion of its stores around the world, from the current total of around 300.

The executive, credited with freshening Dixons' image with innovative marketing -- including an advertising campaign featuring Darth Vader -- joins Apple as the Silicon Valley giant eyes markets abroad to sustain its growth.

"An outsider with international experience will help guide Apple's global expansion strategy," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky. "His experience includes localizing stores for multiple countries."

On Johnson's watch, Apple opened its first retail outlet -- in McLean, Virginia -- in May 2001. It now has a chain of more than 300 stores, which generated an average of $34.1 million each in fiscal 2010 and accounted for 15 percent of the company's net sales.

"(Browett)'s got big shoes to fill," said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. "Ron Johnson drove the Apple store as a customer experience with a positive halo effect for the business."   Continued...

<p>Customers visit the Apple Store in New York City's Grand Central Station January 25, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>