Following June’s quarter which saw over $4.1 billion in sales from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s retail locations, it’s imperative that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) capitalize on its surprising sales of iPhones for two reasons. The first is that those sales beat analysts’ expectations and have continued to push Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s stock price higher. The second, and perhaps more important reason is that these sales figures represent slowed sales from the company’s stores.

Apple Enrique Atienza

Apple hired John Browett

The freshness that was the Apple Stores when they opened up throughout the country and worldwide has faded. Tim Cook believes that the Apple Stores and retail are a cornerstone for the Cupertino company as it moves into the future. This belief is evident based on the fact that Cook himself personally oversees that area following the sacking of John Browett, an executive it hired from U.K. electronics retail chain Dixons Retail PLC (LON:DXNS) just six months before he was sent packing.

The position has now sat vacant for nearly a year with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) intent on bringing an outsider into the mix, as it apparently doesn’t feel as though the position can be filled internally. Browett is largely viewed as one of the biggest PR gaffes in the company’s history.

Shortly after Mr. Browett’s arrival last year, managers in some stores got orders to reduce costs, said people familiar with the stores. Employee events, training, off-site meetings and even budgets for paper and pens dwindled while Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) became the most valuable company in the world by market capitalization.

Representatives at Mr. Browett’s current employer, U.K. fashion retailer Monsoon Accessorize, didn’t make him available for an interview.

“You had different products and services emerging almost every quarter under Ron,” said Dane Taylor, a 36-year-old who worked at one of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s stores in Virginia for five-and-a-half years, until December 2010. “Since he left, the stores have been basically the same from a customer-service point of view.”

Apple Hires Enrique Atienza

But it appears that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is taking steps to remedy the situation with the hiring of Enrique Atienza, a Levi Strauss senior vice president, who has supposedly been working at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in an unspecified retail role since July.

Atienza had been at Levis for nearly four years, and also spent just shy of a decade working for The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and The Disney Store, according to his LinkedIn profile.

With Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) expected to release new products in the near future, it can no longer afford to be without a strong hand at the helm of its retail operations.