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back to article Apple axed Brit retail boss for doing his job well - TOO well, perhaps

John Browett must be pinching himself after his stint as Apple's retail veep came to an abrupt and unceremonious end this week, despite stellar numbers from his division of the firm. Just seven months into the prestigious role, the Brit was shown the door for an unspecified reason at the same time as Scott Forstall, senior veep …

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Anonymous Coward

No shit Sherlock!

"They will always try to sell you Apple, even though for many (or even most) purchasers it probably isn't the most cost-effective buy." --- the bias is widely advertised before you even set foot in the store!

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Re: No shit Sherlock!

I was wondering what that great big illuminated graphic of an apple with a bite out of it over the door was for.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: cost-effective buy

For many purchases it IS the most cost-effecive buy.

Mac User; Go to store, buy a Mac, take it home, switch it on. Complete the setup wizard in less than 5 minutes and boot to a clean desktop. Go to the App store and download all your programs whilst all your other stuff syncs in the background. Any problems take it back to the store and have a hassle free time.

PC User; Go to store, buy a PC, take it home, switch it on. Complete the setup wizard in maybe 15 - 30 minutes and boot to a desktop riddled with crapware, bloatware and demoware and demands to create a backup DVD, Office trail, Norton trial, IE riddled with toolbars and questions (or if you are really lucky boot into the recovery disc creator image and spend an hour or so in there before you get to the desktop). Install malware by mistake when looking for the software you want. Any problems spend hours on the phone on hold or being subjected to a helpdesk script.

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Re: cost-effective buy

My Apple Store is so good that after I had carted it into Kingston Shopping Centre (it's in a *big* box), my apparently at-home-and-lifeless iMac magically started working again when they switched it on. Brilliant!

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Re: cost-effective buy

@AC

"f you are really lucky boot into the recovery disc creator image and spend an hour or so in there before you get to the desktop)"

You missed the bit where you don't have any spare writeable media, the salesdroid didn't tell you need any, and the shops have closed until tomorrow.

This happened with my very first laptop.

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Re: cost-effective buy

AC, you seem to be mistaken, I have corrected it for you.

Mac User: Go all the way to an inner city store, pay a large sum of money for a Mac (although parting with that amount of cash seems easy whilst enjoying the luxurious, flamboyant settings of the store). Complete the setup wizard in less than 5 minutes and boot to the same looking 10-year-old desktop. Go to the App Store and download all your programs that Apple allows you to use. Discover that you need to buy certain connectors that of course weren't provided. Discover that you probably need to buy an Apple TV if you want to stream music/tv, as Apple refused to follow open standards such as DLNA that hundreds of other companies joined up to. Feel smug that your new Mac will never get Trojans, Malware, Viruses even though this has proven to not be the case.

PC User: Go to store, buy PC, take it home, switch it on. Complete the setup wizard, it may take a bit longer than Apple's, but who really cares? Spend about 10mins uninstalling vendor bloat. Install a new browser. Feel free to choose from millions of applications from various sources. Upgrade a hardware component if required and not get fleeced in doing so. Feel pleased that your PC will likely last many years as you will not feel the need to upgrade on a yearly basis due to a newly released version that contains hardware that the previous version should have had. Accept you have a higher chance of installing malware apps than Apple users, due to Windows being the most widely used and hence targeted system. science!

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Anonymous Coward

Had a little giggle at our US reporters perspective.

".. he was chief executive at low-cost UK supermarket Tesco...."

Or alternatively

".. he was chief executive at the world's 2nd most profitable supermarket chain".

Sounds a little more impressive

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Had a little giggle at our US reporters perspective.

I would most certainly not describe Tesco as a "low-cost UK supermarket"

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Coat

Re: Had a little giggle at our US reporters perspective.

I told my girlfriend this who orders the monthly shop from Tesco's.

We are now cleaning up a puddle of wee.

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Re: Had a little giggle at our US reporters perspective.

Definitely not low cost anymore.

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Re: Had a little giggle at our US reporters perspective.

Paul Kunert is British and based in the UK

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Boffin

Re: Had a little giggle at our US reporters perspective.

"...Browett was used to selling value-for-money products..."

That must have been BEFORE he worked for Dixons, then

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Anonymous Coward

Easiest gig in the world..

he didn't need to do anything, the products sell themselves! I'm sure the sales records would have been broken regardless who was in his position!

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FAIL

Re: Easiest gig in the world..

"......he didn't need to do anything, the products sell themselves!....." There is a massive difference between selling a product and maximising profit. As you suggest, any numpty can sell an Apple product to a fanboi, but making sure you have enough stores, enough staff in the stores, that the staff have just enough training and not too little or too much, and that the training is delivered to optimal effect for minimum cost; have the right balance of enough stock on the shelves and in the store stockrooms and in country warehouses and in bits ready to assemble i the factories; the right advertising in the right publications and locations - all these require intelligent mangement to maximise profits.

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Re: Easiest gig in the world..

Apple stores don't exist to "maximize profit". They exist to paint the brand in a good light.

Browett was a "bottom line" guy. All he was concerned about was the maximum income from the minimum resource expenditure. He was doing it by cutting back on staff, cutting back on training and even cutting back on cleaning. He was also pushing for the staff to do more upselling (getting punters to buy a case/dock/extended warranty/whatever).

The only end point for such a strategy is a dingy grubby store, understaffed with clueless pushy sales drones who are obsessed with getting you to part 50 quid for a cable you already have and an AppleCare package on your new mouse, while the genius bar staff would only be there to tell you to turn it off and on again, or reinstall the OS.

This should sound awfully familiar to anyone who has ever been inside a Dixons/Currys Digital/Whatever.

The Apple stores are supposed to promote the brand by offering a high standard of customer engagement and care, not to shift cables and AppleCare. Otherwise there would be no point to them.

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Happy

Re: Easiest gig in the world..

You have it spot on..nothing more to add.

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Stop

ANY salesman will try to sell you something that his company sells

PC World salesmen offering you a cheaper box are no different to Apple salesmen pointing you at a cheaper model (yes, it does happen). Apple have however managed to bypass the hell that is the PC World checkout. You can just wander up to a blue-shirted staff member with a portable terminal on their belt and buy your device there and then. For cheaper items stocked on the shelves you can even fire up an app on your iDevice, scan the barcode, tap the pay button, enter your Apple password and then just wander out of the store with it and an electronic receipt.

Brewitt's big idea was to reduce the number of staff that made shopping at Apple a pain free process. That had nothing to do with increasing sales, just margins. Longer term the results would have been to damage sales, so the idea didn't go down well.

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Re: ANY salesman will try to sell you something that his company sells

I hate buying stuff at the Apple store in the Bullring. (The last couple of things I bought there were not even Apple products, just stuff not stocked in many other "real" shops).

You can barely move even to browse, and all the "blue shirts" are *always* busy. I liked it better when there was just a checkout at the back, like a normal shop.

(They must lose loads to shoplifting as well. I bought a small thing, declined a carrier bag, had my receipt emailed to me, and just walked out the shop with no obvious proof whatsoever I had actually paid.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ANY salesman will try to sell you something that his company sells

Yep.

He probably wanted to introduce the following:

1) Keep on hammering you to buy the totally shit and dilapidated Norton 360

2) Keep on hammering you to buy the overpriced extended guarantee.

3) Buzz around you like an annoying bluebottle.

4) Know absolutely fuck all about the product they are selling.

5) Try to sell you some batteries or other outrageously priced accessory that can be bought on Amazon for %10 of the cost.

6) Introduce Spivs. For the uninitiated about Dixons, these are incentives given to salesmen to get rid of a load of crap from the warehouse one of the company buyers got cheap at auction.

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Happy

Re: ANY salesman will try to sell you something that his company sells

"(They must lose loads to shoplifting as well. I bought a small thing, declined a carrier bag, had my receipt emailed to me, and just walked out the shop with no obvious proof whatsoever I had actually paid.)"

And cant you handle the sale yourself via the apple store app nowadays?

Not that I would, I look guilty even if I haven't done anything

but pick up accessories play a level of pvz then leave like a panda.

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Re: ANY salesman will try to sell you something that his company sells

I agree with the sentiment of your post but the Apple staff already push the over priced extended guarantee, it's called AppleCare...

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Anonymous Coward

Still none the wiser...

Only 7 months, good numbers. Any divergence culturally could surely be reviewed.

He "risked damaging Apple's ...reputation for good customer service" - did he do damage or didn't he?

Don't buy it.

Something else happened, maybe they were making good on too many warranty claims...

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Anonymous Coward

Personally I believe people would have walked in the stores anyway not down to him.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple stores are SO busy they need more staff not less. You can make them more efficient but when every member of staff is basically talking to customers and taking credit cards you need more staff and more / bigger stores. I've seen people walk out as they are just so busy and getting an appointment at the Genius Bar seems to be a bit harder. This is one of the key reasons people buy Apple - i.e. the service.

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On the rare occasion I've been required to venture into an Apple store...

... it seemed that the only reason they were so apparently busy is that you couldn't take one of the items hanging on the wall to a checkout, pay for it and leave. Apple stores are busy by design as they force you to interact with a t-shirt - partly to demonstrate that the "customers" are actually supplicants for the attention of the clergy in the Cathedral of St Steven and partly in the hope of capturing your e-mail address (for the "receipt").

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"Apple's vaunted commitment to the customer lacks a clot of credibility"

Wot? Just because an Apple owned store will only sell Apple computers, media players or phones? What a pointless piece of writing .. pure click bait and yep you got me (oops, ad-block is on though 8-)

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WTF?

Browett should have brought that extended warranty on his new job after al.

But seriously, are we talking about the same Browett?

A Dixons store couldn't possibly be more different from an Apple store if you tried.

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According to reports I've read from the USA (I'm in the UK), one big reason why a lot of shops are switching to part-time staff is the new healthcare coverage rules. Only full-time workers have to be covered; part-timers (defined as those working fewer than 30 hours per week) aren't covered, so there's a huge incentive for all sorts of companies to reduce working hours. This is particularly easy to do in retail.

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Holmes

So, a backhanded way to usher in the 30-hour week ahead of the french, is it? Obama, you sly fox, you!

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It's the same over here: very, very hard to get a job offering more than 30 hours a week in the retail or customer-facing services sector. Many companies now set a cap of 28 hours per week, ensuring hardly any of their staff (except the management) can be classed as full-time and therefore aren't entitled to the full-time levels of holiday leave, mandatory inclusion in the company pension plan, paid sick leave, and so on. Even at an absurdly high (for the retail sector) hourly pay rate of 10 quid an hour, that's only 280 pounds a week, a smidgen over a grand a month, gross. It's no wonder only students end up working in shops, to top up their loans, and it's no wonder they don't give a toss about their shitty McJobs and can't be bothered to do their job properly. What's the matter with this country; don't we want competent service when we go into a shop? It's not even a question of our own self-interest, because the wage savings aren't passed on to us, they're simply added to the shareholder returns.

El Reg, please add a Karl Marx avatar to your selection, that way anyone who feels the need to go on an anti-corporate rant can warn innocent page-scrollers in advance!

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most retailer in the UK (i've worked for a few retail chains whilst at college/uni) rely on part timers for everything except managers (and often have 2-3 part time assistant managers). Means they are easier to control and a single employee has dick all power for things like pay rises etc plus if they leave you can get another one in pretty quickly.

when someones full time they start complaining about a 40 hour week onn min wage. Not sure why they think they should be paid more then pt staff but its something i've seen happen time and time again

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Boffin

Working Hours in the UK and finances.

The #1 dodge in the UK when faced with low pay is to claim Working Tax Credits (this is by the way perfectly legal). The catch so I'm told is that to claim WTC one has to work 30 hours per week, 29 hours is no good. OK it could be argued that the government is subsidising bad employers who rely on paying National Minimum Wage or a few pennies more than NMW just to say they are not an NMW employer!

Incidentally even if ones Contracted Hours are only 29 per week one can still claim WTC if the boss will give you one hour of overtime. Allegedly some firms are now hiring (not quite the right word) - obtaining -interns who work for nothing except their Dole money. From what I've heard they cannot do the job so for the time being the experienced persons overtime and WTC are safe. It sure is different from the boom years of the 1970s when workers would change jobs for half a crown extra per week!

Thankfully I'm retired!

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Re: Working Hours in the UK and finances.

Actually it's more complex than that. If you're under 25 then you only need 16 hours a week to claim Working Tax Credit. If you're 25+ and childless then you need 30 hours; but a single parent with one child only needs 16 hours and a couple with one child only need 24 hours between both of them. This probably explains why most shop workers are quite young....

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"there are no glass staircases and minimalist draping of products over polished surfaces in Blighty's warehouse-like PC World or Currys mega-stores, and Dixons Group staff aren't prepared to hang around shooting the breeze with you as you scratch your chin and mull over making a purchase."

A one-off I realise, but In Birmingham we do have a fancy PC World / Dixons combo shop called "Black", that is like an "Apple" experience for other brands. If anything, it's far nice than the Bullring Apple store, which I hate going in to.

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Anonymous Coward

PCWorld/Currys in Bristol has a dedicated Apple area with (I think) their own group of salespeople (wearing different t-shirts as well form the rest of PC world). Seem to think it also also has a reassuringly expensive wood-effect floor for its section. This section is sited in the middle of the laptop/tablet section - meanwhile further off towards the back there's a similar "exclusive" section for Google Chromebooks again complete with staff in different coloured t-shirts however they seem to always be sat around looking bored hoping that one day a potential customer might arrive.

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WTF?

On a recent visit to John Lewis in Milton Keynes, their Apple section could not help with technical questions and they suggested I visit the Apple Store instead! Quite helpful in itself but not the best for business. Unless they think Apple stuff will sell eventually whatever.

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Big Brother

Dixons!!!

Browett ... was an agency used by Apple to Headhunt him? If so, they too should be given the heave-ho.

At my local Apple stores in Manchester (Trafford and city Arndale) you can't get a Genius appointment for the next three days. This is either Browettisation or loads of Apple stuff either not understood or returned. Hmmm... makes you think.

As for the Bullring Apple Store they now give you oxygen to help you through the 'experience'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dixons!!!

The stores are actually too popular / busy they risk putting people off going. They actually need more stores and more staff.

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Big Brother

123456

"Browett was used to selling value-for-money products"

No he wasn't. Almost all of the products in his stores were NOT value-for-money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 123456

Too right... went in the other day and they were selling iPads.

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Sounds like whoever fired this guy deserves a raise. He did everything according to the "Chainsaw CEO" handbook; slashing staff numbers (at Dixons at least), replacing full-time employees with part-timers (thus reducing social-security contributions and employee benefits like paid sick leave, more paid holidays, etc.), generally doing everything the markets demand to ensure share prices go up while the possibility of landing a decent service-sector job paying a living wage goes down. This guy is most companies' wet dream, yet it seems as though Apple is one of the very few companies for whom the "purchasing experience" and customer service is a major plank of its corporate focus, and (while I am no Apple fan; far from it, in fact) the fact that the company decided to axe the hatchet man because he was disgruntling (can that be a gerund?) its shop-floor workforce deserves a massive, massive, round of applause. Even if, ultimately, Apple only did it to protect its profits: at least it recognises that contented sales and customer service staff can be a key catalyst for driving profits up, and should be protected accordingly.

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It got Apple rated first place amongst retailers in Which? magazine's survey of its users. That sort of image is worth holding on to.

Other highly regarded retailers in this survey were John Lewis and Richer Sounds.

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Anonymous Coward

Reporter is behind the times

Tesco used to be low cost supermarket when it's founder, Jack Cohen was in charge.

Now its trying to take a swing at Wal Mart by selling everything under the sun.

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Re: Reporter is behind the times

That's not a recent phenomenon though .. I'm ancient enough to remember the opening of Tesco Home'n'Ware stores back in the seventies when they started to branch out of being a pure 'pile it high, sell it cheap' supermarket; I loved Green Shield Stamps though (later to become Argos) especially when mum did a 'big shop' and the till would spew out tons of licky-sticky-stamps.

Ah nostalgia .. it ain't what it used to be.

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Re: Reporter is behind the times

Now it's pile it high and try everything to trick the customer into paying more than they need.

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Are you saying...

Are you saying that Apple caused Sandy so that they could make NYSE close and then announce the shakeup? Wow! Is there an app for that?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are you saying...

It's a big call even for Apple.

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I wonder if he misunderstood Apple stores.

The mans previous retail experience is at Tesco and Dixons. While he did a good job increasing profits at both stores (and deserves recognition for that), I'd like to point out that there is a massive difference in style between Apple's stores and those two.

Tesco and Dixons are Pile'em high and sell 'em cheap stores. They (in my experience) offer minimal customer service apart from selling goods, and, particularly in the case of Dixons, are only interested in what else they can sell you (extended warranties etc).

As such, they have a minimal staff, and often those staff who are there are only really interested in selling more stuff. Often they are under pressure to do so (I know this is the case in Dixons), and can pass this pressure on to the customer.

When people go into these stores, they know this. They expect it. When they go into Apple, the staff are still interested in selling stuff (they are in business to sell you stuff, so it's reasonable to expect them to try it), but they are usually a little more relaxed and friendly about it. As such, the customer feels more at ease and doesn't feel like he or she is being sold to. They also come across as quite enthusiastic about the products, and can be quite knowledgeable about them. Both things that Dixons and Tescos staff aren't.

Unfortunately, you need a lot of staff in a store to do this. This guy came in and cut hours.

Actually on a side note, this is happening across British retailing and commerce. Many companies are cutting staff and expecting the smaller staff to deal efficiently with the same (or more) customers. Most British retailers are seeing lower and lower profits, higher losses or even bankruptcy looming.

Apple have a lot of staff in some of their stores (OK, not enough all the time), yet are seeing record numbers of customers, which is bringing in increasing profits, year on year.

Maybe someone from a British retailing company should try and work out why this is. I would argue that the average british customer is sick of dealing with salespeople attempting to pressure them into buying stuff they don't need. Extended warranties, overpriced cables etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Disgusting...

For any company to use Sandy as cover for news that could affect it's share price is nothing short of Disgusting, but would explain why iTunes (US) was now accepting donations to the Red Cross (Guilty Conscience?).

If i was directly affected by the storm, I'd be pretty Bloody Angry to find-out someone was using as a financial convenience!

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Re: Disgusting...

You'd have a point, if Tim Cook's announcement hadn't been on the IT media's calendar for some time beforehand. He could no more have predicted this than anyone else, but why should a company in California stop everything because of a storm over a thousand miles away?

The USA is a big country, with three time zones and fifty States. History has shown that it'll take a lot more than a stiff breeze and a slight moistening of one coast to bring its economy crashing to a halt. Just ask the folks of New Orleans.

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