James Moore: New Apple boss Browett is in the big league now – but he has to watch his step
Outlook: Welcome to the corporate Premier League, John Browett. The Dixons Retail boss has been poached by Apple to run its fast-expanding retail operation and shareholders are anything but happy about his departure. The fact that he has more or less kept the show on the road is seen as no small achievement.
Corporate Britain, however, will be delighted. The fact that Mr Browett is the first chief executive to be poached overseas in donkey's years won't matter much to remuneration committees, which won't hesitate to use it as evidence that the mythical "international market" for top management "talent" does indeed exist.
As for Dixons shoppers, they might raise a wry smile at Apple's stated reasons for hiring Mr Browett. Apparently he shares a commitment to customer service "like no one else we've met". Given a statement like that, it would come as something of a surprise to find that any of Apple's elite had ever been inside some of Currys' London stores.
On the face of it, Apple retail and Dixons are in the same business. In reality they aren't even on the same planet. Consumers can buy Apple's products online just as easily as they can buy a lot of what Dixons sells. It doesn't seem to matter. Apple's stores are full of youthful enthusiastic smiling staff and youthful enthusiastic smiling customers, who seem to spend hours playing around with its gizmos. Plus the occasional shifty-looking older person scratching their heads and wondering what it's all about until they manage to collar one of those staff members, who will swiftly put a few zeroes on their credit-card bills.
Apple stores have almost become leisure destinations. Even the drawstring carrier bags are, well, cool. It is all a far cry from the shops owned by Dixons. Competition from online hasn't made their life easy. But how much has the poor service provided by electronics retailers in general been a factor in Apple's growth. There's an interesting debate to be had there. But perhaps that is being unfair to Mr Browett. After all, before he stepped in, service was even worse. And it's not as though his rivals are much better. America's Best Buy bailed out, while Comet was sold off to an investment firm for a couple of quid and handful of USB cables. Perhaps the outlook for Dixons under new boss Sebastian James will be brighter.
Meanwhile, Mr Browett had better watch his step. Apple's customers have an almost cult-like devotion. They'll queue overnight to buy new products but they might also queue overnight to demand his head if he tries to change the formula.
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