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Apple’s new retail SVP and why he was chosen to replace Ron Johnson

We reported last night that Apple officially appointed CEO of Dixons John Browett as its senior vice president of Retail following Ron Johnson’s departure in October of last year. Browett is leaving his position at Dixons Retail, which operates various United Kingdom-based retail stores including Currys,, and PC World. Dixons is one of the largest electronics chains in Europe, and PC World, the last on that list,  is one of the largest computer/consumer electronic retailers in the U.K. It also has a reputation of being a big-box consumer electronic store that consumers describe as “the worst of Best Buy and Radio Shack combined.”

While U.K. product-testing and consumer advocacy group Which? consistently ranked both Currys Digital and PC World at the bottom of its research regarding the Top 100 retail chains, a report from Financial Times explained “Apple has mystery shopped and been impressed.” Specifically, the report mentioned “a system of decision trees to match customers with products” that Browett has implemented while at Dixons.

The calculation of Mr Cook may be that if Mr Browett is good at selling people products that bore them, he will do even better selling them i-gadgets that they lust after.

According to reports in November from BBC, Browett recently renovated more than 250 stores, implemented new service, and customer support strategies. However, the company reported first-half losses of just over £25 million (slightly lower than expected, but higher than losses of £6.9 million the year prior). In 2009, Retail Week (via GigaOm) profiled Browett, calling him “affable and intellectual” and describing his “schoolboy enthusiasm” for technology during a trip to PC World. Here is an excerpt:

A tour of a PC World or Currys store with him reveals a schoolboy enthusiasm for talking at length about the technology behind flatscreen TVs. On another occasion, he revealed his hands-on nature when a disgruntled customer barged into a back room after realising who Browett was. He leapt to his feet and attended to the customer.

Before becoming CEO of Dixons Retail in December 2007, Browett was CEO of Tesco— currently the world’s third-largest retailer by revenue, according to Reuters— from 1999 to 2004, and he was the operations director of U.K. at since January 2004. During those years, he was also in charge of Tesco Telecom, including Tesco Mobile, and implemented a new leading web-based grocery delivery service. According to Businessweek, Browett holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and a degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University. He also served as Independent Non Executive Director of easyJet plc since 2007 and chairperson of the supervisory board at Pixmania SA.

So what do consumers in the U.K. actually think of Dixons, specifically PC World’s and Currys’ current retail experience? 9to5Mac readers provided their thoughts:

“All I know is Dixon -PC World offer the worst customer service ever. They have been on various consumer programmes for poor service in the UK.”-@uklee

“There goes the neighbourhood – why dixons its one of the worst run shops from the consumer perspective every – the staff are rude and the shops sometimes rundown. I really hope they have someone else keeping an eye on him.”@Robin1989

“Did Tim Cook ever put a foot in a DSG shop (or sent a mystery shopper)?!? Dixon/PCWorld is probably the exact definition of “Worst shopping experience, ever”. I can see a huge boast in AppleCare sales as you will be force feed them as soon as you’ll get in an Apple store from now on…” — StephUK

Browett will be moving from his home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire to Cupertino, Calif., to “lead a push into emerging markets” beginning in April.

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Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.