Apple Inc. said Angela Ahrendts, the head of retail operations, is leaving the company in April after serving in the role since 2014.
Ahrendts had been floated by some Apple watchers as a potential successor to Chief Executive Tim Cook.
The iPhone maker said Tuesday afternoon that Ahrendts is taking on new “personal and professional pursuits.” Human resources chief Deirdre O’Brien will run the retail unit. Ahrendts joined Apple after serving as the chief executive of fashion giant Burberry Group for almost eight years.
At Apple, she overhauled the company’s retail operations, redesigning stores into meeting places with more open floor plans and a focus on pushing customer service “geniuses” out from behind formal counters.
“Retail is a cornerstone of Apple’s success,” said Michael Gartenberg, a former senior marketing executive at Apple. “Ahrendts was able to successfully carry the torch on Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple in retail. This is not going to be someone easily replaced.”
On her watch, Apple expanded stores into areas including Mexico, South Korea, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. She also more closely coordinated Apple’s brick-and-mortar stores with its online effort and renovated dozens of older retail outlets. Apple has more than 500 stores in about 25 countries.
Apple’s retail stores are among the most profitable in the world, and under Ahrendts their performance improved. Average sales per square foot rose from $4,640 in 2013 to more than $5,600, according to EMarketer.
Ahrendts is at least the sixth member of Apple’s executive team in a senior vice president position to leave since Cook became CEO in 2011. Others who have departed include chief engineer Bob Mansfield, former retail boss John Browett, general counsel Bruce Sewell, Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer and software leader Scott Forstall.
O’Brien will become Apple’s fourth retail chief since Ron Johnson launched the division in the early 2000s. After Johnson left in 2011, the role was taken by Browett, a European retail executive. He departed after less than a year as part of a larger management reorganization by Cook.