Apple’s new retail chief is no stranger to tech

Angela Ahrendts Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Angela Ahrendts
Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple’s new head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, knows more about how tech meets retail than you might think.

“Angela Ahrendts has always been ahead of the curve in redefining things,” Peter Blair Henry, dean of New York University’s Stern School of Business, said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday. “She took Burberry from a $2 billion market capitalization to a $7 billion market capitalization company through innovation. So I think you have to assume somebody as smart as she is knows what she is doing, and in her view, it’s a new challenge.”

Regent Street in London

Burberry’s flagship store on Regent Street in London.

The former CEO of Burberry strategically helped lead the luxury brand into the digital age. Under her reign, the company has built out its digital initiatives in social media, equipped store associates with tools like iPads and even created what Ahrendts cites as “the store of the future”—Burberry’s flagship store in London.

“There’s no other store like it in the world. This is the future of retail,” Ahrendts said earlier this month at a design conference hosted by Fast Company. “It felt like you were walking into a website, it felt like you were walking into that screen.”

Burberry’s flagship store, 121 Regent St., was created by the company’s new CEO Christopher Bailey, who was Ahrendts’ right-hand man and creative director during her tenure.

The digitally integrated 27,000-square-feet store is wrapped in full-length screens that can transform between displays for custom visual or audio content, live streaming centers and as mirrors.

One way the company utilizes these screens is through radio-frequency identification chips.

For example, the chips, which are attached to certain clothing items, interact with the screen to show certain information about the product when a customer gets near a screen.

There is also a large screen in the front of the store where live runway shows and other types of entertainment are streamed.

“We talk a lot about technology,” Ahrendts said at the conference. “Christopher talks a lot about humanizing technology, that the culture of the company is compassionate and we feel connected.”

One of the biggest ways Burberry has emphasized being connected is by using mobile devices. For example, store associates at Regent Street carry an iPad to store purchase information about the customer so they can give them a more personal shopping experience.

Under Ahrendts, Burberry also partnered with tech giants like Apple and Google for various initiatives.

For example, last month Apple collaborated with Burberry to show off photo and video capabilities of the iPhone 5S before the device was available to the public. At the conference, Ahrendts said she has always been a fan of Apple’s products and stressed how the mobile revolution has changed the game, so to speak, when it comes to creating quality content.

“There is a massive convergence coming between digital and YouTube and television, she said. “And the average consumer now has the ability to create some of the most brilliant content with a device they already have or will soon have. … So how could we not do something innovative using the runway.”

—By CNBC’s Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.

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