AIB Featured Business Leader Angela Ahrendts
Stepping down as CEO of fashion retailer Burberry, Angela Ahrendts is set to become the first female to join Apple’s senior management team. Taking over the role of Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores, Ahrendts has been hired by the tech giant to help revive recent disappointing sales from a retail perspective. Beginning her career with an undergraduate degree in Merchandising and Marketing, Ahrendts moved to New York upon graduation and began working in the fashion industry for underwear brand Warnaco. After some time in New York she joined Donna Karan International in 1989 with a focus on ‘developing the brand internationally’ (C Net). After almost a decade with Donna Karan, Ahrendts joined Fifth & Pacific Companies as the Vice President of Corporate Merchandising and Design. From there, she worked her way up to Executive Vice President before joining Burberry in 2006 as Chief Executive Officer.
During her tenure at Burberry, Ahrendts turned the brand into a multi-faceted fashion empire, shifting it from one which specialised mostly in raincoats. On her arrival, she also limited the use of the iconic ‘Burberry check’ pattern to only 10% of all fashion and accessories in an attempt to minimise the sales damage from counterfeits. This strategy proved to be overwhelmingly successful, and contributed greatly to the increase in Burberry’s sales. Known at Burberry as a leader who was passionate about keeping staff updated, C Net reports that Ahrendts was ‘adamant that significant news be shared first with staff’. She was also quoted to say ‘everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer but I think you should build one with your employees first’.
Aside from significant achievements in her career, Ahrendts was named an honorary Dame Commander of the British Empire for her contributions to British Business in 2013. In her Commencement Address speech at Ball State University, she explained that when she was younger she continually reminded herself that she would not live her life saying ‘I wish I would have’. She also touched on her views of women and equality in the workplace, going against the general consensus that women are underrepresented in the boardroom. She stated ‘I’m not in favour of quotas – just put the best person into the job. It is not about gender; it is about experience, leadership and vision’. It is a bold statement, but one which demonstrates her humility and worthiness of her senior role.
I for one am definitely interested to see Angela Ahrendts’ work at Apple and whether the influence of one person can make significant changes to such a well-established organisation. Tell me what you think – do you admire her rise to the top? How do you think she will perform when making the change from fashion retail to tech? I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: C Net; Ball State University and Brainy Quote.”