Does Apple want to be more like Dixons?

Apple store
Apple Stores: not currently a lot like Dixons

Good news for anyone who's ever wished Apple Stores were a bit less friendly, a bit more incompetent, a bit more you're-not-leaving-until-you-buy-an-extended-warranty.

Apple has decided that it needs some expertise from Dixons, and it's poached Dixons CEO John Browett to become its senior vice president of retail.

So does that mean Apple Stores will start flogging washing machines, trying to sell you a whole bunch of crappy accessories and asking twenty-seven times whether you want an extended warranty on your iPad?

Er, probably not.

There are only two possible explanations for Browett's appointment. Either there's more to Dixons - and to Browett - than most people imagine, or Tim Cook has gone completely and utterly insane.

I don't know about you, but I'm betting on the first option.

National service

If your experience of Dixons is limited to the airport shops or a dim memory of a buck-toothed simpleton trying to sell you Coverplan on a pack of triple-A Duracells then you're bound to think Tim Cook's gone crazy, but the truth is that Dixons is very different to the way some - perhaps even most - of us see it.

While most of the consumer electricals market is firmly in the toilet - Best Buy blew it, Comet's currently worth about ten pence, most of the industry only really exists online - Dixons is still hanging in there, helped considerably by a change of approach that improved store layouts, integrated online ordering and introduced the KnowHow installation, support and repair service.

It's easy to mock KnowHow, especially if you're reasonably tech-savvy, but it's part of a wider change that's seen Dixons try to differentiate itself from rivals by concentrating on service, not box-shifting.

I think Browett's focus on service, along with Dixons' sheer scale - it's an enormous, pan-European operation - is what's attracted Tim Cook's attention.

Apple wants somebody who cares about service and who can handle a truly massive retail operation. John Browett ticks both boxes.

Maybe I'm wrong and maybe Tim Cook has gone completely nuts, and the future of Apple Stores involves red-jumpered loons with no product knowledge breaking Macs all over the place.

It would certainly be quite funny, but given that Apple's just posted yet another record-breaking quarter and annexed yet more of the world's money, I'm inclined to think Tim Cook knows exactly what he's doing.

Although I bet you'll get asked more often about AppleCare.


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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.