Angela Ahrendts, chief executive of Burberry, holds an iPad at the 2011… (Peter Foley / Bloomberg )
Apple Inc. announced Tuesday that Burberry Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts will run its retail division, including online and retail stores.
Ahrendts will become the only woman among Apple's top executive ranks, reporting directly to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook.
"I am thrilled that Angela will be joining our team," Cook said in a statement. "She shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience. She has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record."
Apple described her position of senior vice president of retail and online stores as a new one, though it was not immediately clear how her role would differ from the company's previous worldwide retail chiefs.
The job of running Apple's critical retail operations has been vacant for almost a year since the company fired the previous retail boss, John Browett, after a rocky tenure that lasted just a few months.
When Ahrendts takes charge, she will inherit an operation that has been essential to Apple's success over the last decade and one that continues to expand at a rapid pace.
During the fiscal year 2013 that ended Sept. 30, Apple had said it expected to open 27 new retail stores, with more than three-quarters of them outside the U.S.
The company is also renovating or relocating some older stores that have outgrown their locations.
In the most recent earnings call with analysts last summer, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said the company had relocated four stores in the June quarter. The company expected to complete 23 relocations in fiscal year 2013.
Apple had projected it would spend $600 million on its retail stores in fiscal year 2013.
Meanwhile, Apple has been pressing ahead on these expansions and renovations without the benefit of a head of retail.
Ahrendts had been one of the names rumored to be in consideration for the job. When Apple launched its new iPhones last month, the company gave Burberry early access to the iPhone 5s to shoot its runway show and create a video to demonstrate the power of the new camera.
"I am profoundly honored to join Apple in this newly created position next year, and very much look forward to working with the global teams to further enrich the consumer experience on and offline," Ahrendts said in a statement. "I have always admired the innovation and impact Apple products and services have on people’s lives and hope in some small way I can help contribute to the company’s continued success and leadership in changing the world."
Apple has been on a bit of a fashion streak in its hiring.
Two months ago, Apple hired Paul Deneve, former CEO and president of Yves Saint Laurent, to be vice president in charge of special projects.
Then Apple hired Enrique Atienza, a senior vice president at Levi's, to run its U.S. retail operations.
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