Dixons chief executive John Browett is to leave the electricals group to become technology giant Apple’s senior vice-president of retail.

Browett will be succeeded as Dixons group chief executive by Sebastian James, at present operations director. Katie Bickerstaffe, who spearheaded the creation of the Knowhow services business, is promoted to the newly created position of UK and Ireland chief executive.

Browett, who will step down from Dixons’ board on February 20 and will leave the retailer on April 20, will be based in California in his new global Apple role.

He joined Dixons in 2007 and has won credit for his renewal and transformation plan, designed to put the Currys and PC World owner on a stronger footing, emphasising its service credentials and specialist expertise in the face of internet competition and the incursion of other retailers such as the supermarkets.

His strategy enabled Dixons to see off Best Buy, which has abandoned its attempt to break into the UK market, and outperform arch-rival Comet which will this week be sold for £2.

Browett said: “Dixons Retail is a great business, and with the support of a very strong management team we have made excellent progress in transforming the group into the leading customer focused specialist electrical retailer in its markets. 

“The opportunity ahead of me is exciting and I leave knowing that the group has a bright future under strong leadership.”

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: “Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we’ve met. We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple.”

Browett’s successor James joined Dixons in 2008 and played a key role in delivering the turnaround, being responsible for the development and implementation of new store formats and propositions.

His previous roles include strategy director of Mothercare and he has worked for Boston Consulting Group.

As well as the development of Knowhow, Bickerstaffe has been involved in Dixons’ store portfolio strategy, marketing, customer relationship management and human resources operations.  She is a former managing director of Kwik Save and group retail director and group HR director of Somerfield.

James said: “I am very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for Dixons Retail.  While the economic backdrop in many of our markets remains challenging, our unswerving focus on the customer has put us in a very strong position. 

“We will continue to deliver a market beating combination of value, choice and service as well as continually improving the operational efficiencies in the business.

“We have made great strides in improving the business for customers, but I believe there remain many further improvements we can achieve. 

“I feel very lucky to have such a strong team and am delighted that Katie has agreed to lead our UK and Ireland business.  I enormously look forward to leading the group through the next phase of its development.”