The news that Burberry’s CEO Angela Ahrendts is stepping down next year to join Apple, has allowed digital enthusiast and Burberry chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, to take the helm.

Bailey has played a major role in the company’s transformation into a cutting-edge brand, and while he will have his work cut out – dividing his time between design and CEO responsibilities – Ahrendts has left him with a raft of opportunities as well as a strong foundation.

Ahrendts, who has revitalised the Burberry brand, driven global expansion and led the way in digital innovation in luxury fashion, is leaving Burberry in excellent shape making now a good time for her to take on a new challenge.

Ahrendts has developed a strong reputation for creating innovative and technologically advanced Burberry stores and brand image, so her appointment at Apple signals a renewed focus on its retail proposition – especially having had a vacancy for the retail chief executive role for the last year following John Browetts’ swift departure. 

Much of Burberry’s success is attributed to Bailey’s creative and artistic input, driving the brand to become a label of choice across the globe. Sales growth has been fuelled by international expansion, particularly in Asia and the US, highlighting how the heritage, but also modernisation, of the brand has appealed to a very large customer base.

Most recently Ahrendts has focused on developing Burberry’s beauty and menswear offers – Verdict’s key growth categories within the global luxury market – leaving Bailey with two major development opportunities for the next five years.

Having brought menswear fully in-house in 2011, Christopher Bailey has been able to apply his design skills and business capabilities to this strong area of the business and by capitalising on men’s growing interest in fashion, there is still great potential for Burberry’s tailoring and men’s accessories ranges to expand further.

Moreover, following the integration of Burberry’s beauty division in April 2013, it invested heavily in campaigns – such as its recent Brit Rhythm fragrance launch – confirming its capability to become a major player in the beauty sector.

However, Bailey does have a challenge ahead of him, to not only have the right creative vision but also a strategic and profit focused mind-set for the business and its shareholders. He is going to require support from Burberry’s management team and new CFO, Carol Fairweather, as this is likely to be an area of the business where his skill set is not yet fully developed.

Jessica Fioriti, associate retail analyst, Verdict Research