Ron Johnson: Retailing is hard, but Steve told me to trust my intuition and do the right thing

The CEO of JC Penney Ron Johnson sat with CBS “This Morning” to defend his company’s new spokesperson Ellen DeGeneres from attacks by the religious group One Million Moms that seeks to boycott the retailer if it did not axe DeGeneres over her sexual orientation. Putting the controversy aside, the interview (available on the CBS website and over at YouTube) gets interesting at mark 3:50 when Johnson reflects on his long tenure as Apple’s Vice President of Retail. The “Steve Jobs of the retail industry,” as some have dubbed him, said retailing is anything but a walk in the park:

Retailing is hard and that’s what Steve said when we started stores at Apple. But you look, you know, dozen years later and the stores are really popular with people. And they’re really popular because people know that the store cares more what the product does for them than just selling the products. At Apple, in many ways, the relationship with the customer begins when they buy.

Johnson, 53, drew parallels to how he built the Apple Stores on experience. Before joining Apple in January 2000, Johnson served as Target’s Vice President of Merchandising. He left Apple in November 2011 to take the reins at JC Penney. Apple hired CEO of Dixons John Browett as Johnson’s replacement, prompting pundits to opine how folks consider Dixons stores “the worst of Best Buy and Radio Shack combined.” When asked about the lessons he learned from Apple’s cofounder, Johnson responded:

Read more

Former Apple Retail head Ron Johnson talks remaking JC Penney using Apple experience

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former head of retail, pioneered the concept of the Apple Retail Stores and the Genius Bar a decade ago. As you know, he is also yet another established Cupertino executive to use experience at Apple and tap his peers in an effort to transform an industry and rethink a company. Another one: The iPod Godfather Tony Fadell whose intelligent thermostat made quite a stir among the technophiles. Not everyone succeeds, as evident in the case of former Apple hardware chief Jon Rubinstein, who just left Hewlett-Packard following a series of missteps with webOS and Palm.

Due to take over CEO post at the American mid-range department store chain on Feb. 1, Johnson on Wednesday shed more light on a new strategy for an ailing JC Penney, and boy, does it draw from everything he learned during the Apple gig. He conveniently kicked off his presentation with a slide adorned by an Apple logo, which was immediately followed by another “What Were You Thinking?” slide.

Johnson then launched into an appraisal of Apple, likening the iPhone maker to a prime model of lasting brand experiences. Johnson, who left Target for Apple in 2000, recalled that at the time: “There wasn’t one positive believer who thought an Apple retail store could work.”  He then put up a slide depicting the Grand Central outlet, a massive new Apple store built inside New York City’s landmark Grand Central Terminal.

Reiterating how he built Apple Stores on experiences, not commissions, the executive noted:

It’s not about buying. It’s about enriching someone’s life. [...] The magic of the store that makes everyone want to come is all the stuff you get beyond the transaction, ’cause at Apple, the relationship doesn’t end when you buy. That’s where it begins. And we’re going to do that at JC Penney.

A few other interesting highlights are below:
Read more