Apple Stores employees stick with their jobs and there's a good reason for that, says the company's retail chief.
The company employs around 60,000 store workers and ended 2015 with a retention rate of 81 percent, Apple vice president of retail and online stores Angela Ahrendts told Fast Company in an interview published Wednesday. That's the highest retention rate Apple has ever had for its retail store workers, according to Ahrendts.
While the glory often goes to Apple's product designers and marketing wizards, Apple Stores have been central to the company's success. That retail empire now stretches to 463 retail stores across 16 countries. Apple Stores had the highest sales per square foot of any US retailer, Fortune reported last year.
The cachet of Apple Stores has prompted other tech giants including Microsoft, Samsung and AT&T to spiff up their retail operations, while traditional electronics retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City and Radio Shack have struggled or disappeared.
Retail staffers face the often-challenging task of dealing with customers, whether trying to wow them with the merits of an iPhone or Mac or helping them with a question or problem. Workers not only need technical chops but also the right amount of patience and friendliness. Ahrendts, who took over Apple's retail helm in 2014, told Fast Company that she visited 40 retail markets to spend time talking with store employees. Their feedback gave her the sense that workers feel "connected."
"They don't feel like they're just somebody over here working with customers," Ahrendts said. "I don't see them as retail employees. I see them as executives in the company who are touching the customers with the products that Jony [Ive] and the team took years to build. Somebody has to deliver it to the customer in a wonderful way."
The former CEO of British luxury retailer Burberry Group, Ahrendts took over the retail post from John Browett, who was let go in 2012 after six months on the job. Browett had taken the reins after the departure of Ron Johnson, who left Apple in 2011 to become CEO at retailer J.C. Penney.
Under Ahrendts' watch, Apple retail stores have undergone design changes and have grown in volume, especially in China where the 30th store opened earlier this month.
reading•How Apple's retail chief views her store workers
May 23•What data does Apple have on you? Here's how to find out
May 23•No, Apple supplier Foxconn isn't scaling back its US factory
May 23•Apple may owe you $50 if you replaced an iPhone battery early
May 23•Next-gen Apple iPhone chips reportedly already in production