The Apple Store’s New Chief Already Runs an Electronics Retailer. Is That Good or Bad?

By  |  Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 7:24 am

Ron Johnson, the Apple retail chief who helped turn the Apple Store into a juggernaut, announced last June that he was leaving to become CEO of JC Penney. He departed Apple as of November 1st. And now he’s been replaced: Apple has announced that John Browett is its new senior vice president of retail operations.

Since 2007, Browett has been CEO of Dixons Retail, a large electronics merchant in the UK that owns two chains, Currys and PC World. It’s sort of both the Best Buy and the CompUSA of its territory.

When I think of the PC World stores, I think of the years when I worked at PC World magazine here in the states. I got a surprising number of e-mails from unhappy customers who were confused about which PC World they were contacting–messages along the lines of “I have a complaint about the price of ink cartridges in your Lancashire branch.” The fact that the logos of the magazine and the stores were nearly identical didn’t make matters any less confusing. (Both companies have since changed their logos–and they’re still very similar. Weird.)

Because I got so many missives from disgruntled PC World shoppers, I tend to have a negative view of Dixons despite the fact that my entire shopping experience with the company consists of having briefly visited a PC World in London about a decade ago. So I asked my UK Twitter pals what they think of Dixons and its stores. Here’s a sampling of what they said:

Apple presumably devoted a huge amount of thinking to making this hire. But I do find it interesting: When it started the Apple Store, it didn’t hire anyone who was responsible for an existing electronics retailer, most of which have mediocre-to-poor reputations. It hired Ron Johnson, who’d worked at Target, a company that’s generally well-regarded by the industry and by its customers. Johnson brought a fresh outlook to his new gig, and it sure seems to have helped.

Browett, however, is in the electronics business already, and Dixons’ stores, which have little in common with the Apple Store, presumably reflect his views and capabilities. It’ll be fascinating to see how he does at Apple–and if there’s any discernible difference between the Johnson-era Apple Stores and the Brower ones.

 
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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Alex Sebenski Says:

    My only complaint of the Apple Store of late is the horrible advice the staff have been giving. Every time I enter an Apple Store to look around or use the internet I overhear the uninformed staff giving customers advice.
    The hiring and training required to work in the Apple Store needs to be stepped up and by the sounds of it Dixons wasn't exactly full of knowledgeable staff.
    I can go to a good restaurant down the street and they know how everything is made and what all the ingredients are. How hard is it to have an electronic store employee who does their homework? Something has to be done and I doubt Brower is the guy.

  2. Steve Bryce Says:

    PC World in the UK is unfortunately more like TV World these days. Most of the floorspace is now given over to consumer electronics, not PC systems and components. Used to be a good place to buy components, as long as you were willing to pay over-the-odds prices compared to internet.

  3. R Singers Says:

    That review of Dixons seems remarkably similar to Dick Smiths in AU & NZ.

  4. LazlowStPierre Says:

    I'm not in the UK (I'm in Ireland) but there are PC World and Curry's stores here. My experience has not been good in them. In my experience, the staff are largely clueless, either to the point of offering blatantly incorrect advice to customers or just resorting to reading specs and features off the box of whatever it is you're trying to buy. They are also quite annoying about trying to get you to buy extended warranties.

    I once tried to buy an SD card for my camera. I could have just walked over to the shelf of memory cards and picked up what I wanted, but a member of staff insisted on helping me out, and he picked up CompactFlash cards, micro SD cards, Sony memory sticks, etc. before I just picked up what I wanted. He then proceeded to ask me what brand of camera I had and when I told him I had a Nikon, insisted that nikons didn't take SD cards.

    On another occasion I needed to purchase a hard drive for a laptop I was repairing and again a member of staff interrupted me and insisted on getting me what I wanted. I explained what I wanted and I was offering 3.5" hard drives, external hard drives, a hard drive enclosure etc. before just picking up what I wanted myself.

    I could go on, but these are typical of my experiences in both my local PC World and Currys.

  5. John Baxter Says:

    The optimistic view goes something like this: Mr B convinced Tim Cook that he meant it when he said something like "you guys do it right; I know how and have wanted to, but my board hasn't let me".

    The highly pessimistic view is more like "Wow, I guess I'll really switch to Wintel (or WinARM)."

    There is certainly a scapegoat in hand now should Apple's results switch from (way) up and right to down and right.

    –John

  6. Dave Says:

    Back in the late 80s I saw the then boss of Dixons interviewed on TV as part of a business programme called The Money Programme. He stated he wanted his staff to have zero knowledge of the products they sold, and anyone who knew anything would be fired, because the products should sell themselves. I can’t remember his name but my experience of current Currys and PC World stores leads me to believe they still have the same corporate culture.

    Apple store staff & customers should be very worried.

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