The retirement of Steve Jobs as Apple chief executive marks the loss of the technology world’s first big superstar, but painting him as a purely technical figure underestimates him – Jobs’ contribution to the retail world has been significant.

The retirement of Steve Jobs as Apple chief executive marks the loss of the technology world’s first big superstar, but painting him as a purely technical figure underestimates him – Jobs’ contribution to the retail world has been significant. He initiated the company’s foray into retail when he opened the first Apple store in 2001, and the brand has since led the way in both innovative retailing and brilliant consumer technology.
 
Jobs has been the epicentre of its subsequent success. Under his stewardship Apple stores have become vibrant technology hubs – it doesn’t matter that the products are expensive, shoppers are drawn to the experience Apple offers and are keen to be a part of the brand. The products released under his tenure, and the retail brand the company developed, means the company is one of the strongest players in the industry today.
 
Some of its ideas – paperless receipts, for instance – will be being copied for years to come. Its foray into the huge, increasingly profitable Chinese market has been one of the most successful in the retail industry so far. It’s played a central role in making products matter, proving customers will still spend money if you provide them with something great to spend it on. And it’s changed the way people buy technology, making it accessible to everyone and less intimidating to those who don’t know what they’re looking at.
 
Apple’s challenge now will be to hold on to the momentum that Jobs injected into the company. Perhaps the most important task, though, will be to keep a grasp on that brilliant simplicity Jobs brought to technology and to Apple’s brand. Electronics is a retail sector that can easily get too complicated and too “geeky” – the big challenge for the new chief executive Tim Cooks will be to do as Jobs did: keep producing winning ideas while making it all look easy.