Free AppleCare with each new iMac 5K or Mac Pro purchase: Apple Price Guides updated Nov 25th (exclusive coupons)

Apple assigns new VP of retail operations

Apple Computer, Inc. has hired former Ralph Lauren executive Bridget Ryan Berman as vice president and chief operating officer for the company's retail operation, according to ifoAppleStore.

A 12-year veteran of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp, Berman recently oversaw operations at 40 domestic and 121 international Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Stores.

Berman joins the Apple Retail team with significant international retail experience, just months prior to an expected boom in the company’s international retail store initiative.

Interestingly, IfoAppleStore notes that Berman will operate from an east coast, New Jersey location. Speculation is widespread that this would strategically place Berman closer to Apple's forthcoming Canadian retail initiative and at the center of world-wide Apple retail operations. But one source says Berman simply did not want to pick-up and make the move to Cupertino.

Berman left Ralph Lauren in June, presumably to accept the position at Apple. She replaces Kathie Calcidise, Apple's former vice president of retail operations who has been with the company through the entire development of Apple retail. It’s currently unclear where the move will land Calcidise.

Ralph Lauren positions its stores similar to Apple's, describing them as "the ultimate show cases for the Ralph Lauren collections" offering "an unparalleled customer service experience."

Meanwhile, ifoAppleStore confirms that Apple will begin opening a series of smaller Apple retail stores, dubbed "mini stores." Already 3 locations are said to be under construction in the Stanford Shopping Center, the Santa Rosa Plaza and a location in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Unlike Apple’s current retail stores—which average 4000 square-feet—the mini locations will occupy 1500 to 2,000-square-foot venues and feature grab-and-go and impulse-buy items such as iPods, accessories, peripherals and software. The stores will also reportedly feature select desktop and laptop models.

Sony recently launched a "SonyStyle" retail store in the Stanford Shopping Center, just a number of feet from where the future Apple mini store will lie. A recent write-up of the new store characterizes the outfit as an "Apple rip-off attempt," citing the existence of the store itself and the printed calendar of store events, in addition to the use of the phrase "digital lifestyle."