Apple Inc. is hiring Dixons chief executive John Browett, who drove a recent turnaround at the U.K. electronics retailer, to lead the iPad maker’s retail expansion.
Browett, who has been the boss at Dixons since 2007, was previously chief executive of Tesco PLC’s successful online shopping site.
At Apple, which last week posted quarterly results ahead of market expectations, Mr. Browett will be responsible for the company’s retail strategy and the expansion of its stores around the world from the current total of around 300.
Mr. Browett fills a job left open when Ron Johnson left to become the CEO of J.C. Penney Co. in November. Mr. Johnson pioneered Apple's highly successful retail stores, known for their stark design and their “Genius Bar” where Apple customers get technology advice and support.
“Our retail stores are all about customer service and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook,” whom Mr. Browett will report to.
Mr. Browett’s appointment has sparked speculation in some quarters that Apple may be planning a push in its retail operations in Europe, where his expertise is greatest.
In October Best Buy abandoned plans for a chain of European megastores, while Kesa Electricals, Europe’s No. 3 player, effectively paid a bidder to take loss-making British chain Comet off its hands.
Both companies, as well as Home Retail’s Argos business, have struggled to compete with Dixons in the UK as Mr. Browett revamped stores focused on more popular megastores and improved product ranges with a mantra of improving the shopping trip for customers.
Shares in Dixons Retail, Europe’s second biggest electrical goods retailer and owner of the Currys and PC World chains in Britain, fell 4.7 per cent on Tuesday after it said Mr. Browett would quit in April to join the world’s leading smartphone maker, as senior vice-president of retail, based in California.
Dixons, which also runs Elkjop in Nordic countries, UniEuro in Italy and Kotsovolos in Greece, said Mr. Browett will be succeeded by Sebastian James, its operations director and a former strategy director at mother and baby products retailer Mothercare.
Shareholders in the U.K. group may take comfort that the appointment of Mr. James, who was instrumental in executing much of Dixons’ turnaround plan.
“We understand that the board had already carried out external bench-marking as part of its succession plans, and had decided that internal candidates would provide the best solution,” said Investec analyst David Jeary.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple's stock rose $2.13 to $455.14 in premarket trading Tuesday.
With files from The Associated Press