Ron Johnson Stories March 6, 2017

Ex-Apple Store chief talks Steve Jobs, Genius Bar and more in new interview

In a new interview with Recodeformer Apple Store chief Ron Johnson sits down with Kara Swisher to talk about his corporate retail experiences, Steve Jobs, and his ‘idiotic’ Genius Bar idea.

Ron Johnson Stories May 6, 2015

Former Apple retail head launches Enjoy, offering home setup of your gadgets at no extra cost

Ron Johnson, who was Apple’s retail chief for almost 12 years, has finally taken the wraps off the online shopping service he teased back in October of last year. Called Enjoy, the service allows you to order products online for the same price you’d pay buying direct from the manufacturer websites – but get same-day delivery and free home setup.

Whether it’s an iPhone, Sonos speaker system, drone or electric bicycle, the company will send a “personal expert” to your home to hand-deliver the product and spend an hour setting it up and showing you how to use it. The service launches in San Francisco today, reports the WSJ, with New York next in line on 13th May.

Apple is not an official partner, but the company has a deal with AT&T, meaning that customers buying iPhones through the carrier will be offered the option of Enjoy home setup from 19th May.

Johnson acknowledges that consumers may be able to find lower pricing elsewhere, but believes that the convenience of fast delivery and personal setup will make it attractive to time-pressured gadget buyers.

Ron Johnson Stories February 26, 2015

Former Apple retail chief joins online retailer Nasty Gal, leads $16 million round of funding

Former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson is getting back into the fashion game. The man who helped shape the Cupertino company’s retail arm made the jump to become CEO of JCPenney after exiting Apple in 2011, but was eventually removed from his position there as well.

The undeterred Johnson announced today that he would be leading a $16 million round of funding in online women’s retailer Nasty Gal. Johnson has also been appointed to the retailer’s board of directors. Nasty Gal is currently in the process of launching its own physical stores, though it currently only has one location in Los Angeles.

Apple’s ex-exec recently helped raise $30 in funding for online shopping startup Enjoy, and was reported in late 2014 to be working on a gadget delivery service.

Ron Johnson Stories October 24, 2014

Former Apple retail head Ron Johnson raises $30M for intriguing online shopping startup

Ron Johnson, who headed up Apple’s retail operations for almost 12 years, has raised $30M in funding for an intriguing-sounding online shopping service due to launch next year, reports the WSJ.

The new company is called Enjoy, and Mr. Johnson says its goal is to change the way people buy and use the “things that matter” in a world in which consumers start their shopping online […]

Johnson is not giving much away about what Enjoy will offer, but said that it’s designed to help bridge the gap between offline and online shopping for more complex and expensive products.

Enjoy aims to help shoppers develop a connection with new products, in the way that Apple Stores let shoppers try its products. For example, Mr. Johnson said it is hard for customers to understand the capabilities of a new product like a GoPro camera from shopping online.

The Apple background doesn’t end with Johnson, who was SVP of Retail Operations from January 2000 to November 2011: he’s also brought on board Jerry McDougal, a former retail VP at Apple, and creative director Tom Suiter, who played a key role in the iMac campaigns and in-store graphics for Apple Stores.

Photo: Reuters

Ron Johnson Stories September 4, 2014

Ron Johnson at Apple store opening

Former Apple Senior Vice President of Retail (then ousted JCPenney CEO) Ron Johnson made a somewhat rare public-facing appearance on Andreessen Horowitz’s podcast. The discussion comes in at just under half an hour and features the former head of Apple Retail discussing his experience with leading the Apple Store as well as the challenge for up-and-coming startup brands to afford brick-and-mortar retail channels, but more interesting from an Apple perspective is Johnson’s praise for Microsoft’s retail stores and the Surface 3 tablet that the company heavily markets against Apple’s MacBook Air.

“I think the Microsoft stores have succeeded much more than popular opinion. […] I think it’s really helped, for instance, the Surface 3. It’s a really great product and we all know that. Everyone who has tried a Surface 3 is pretty blown away with the software, the interaction, how it can be a tablet and a computer, its part of the future. Without those stores that Surface 3 wouldn’t be where it is today.”

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Ron Johnson Stories May 19, 2014

Ahrendts succeeds Jobs, Johnson, and Browett (Graphic by Michael Steeber)

When Ron Johnson finalized his decision to move from leading Apple’s retail strategy to become the Chief Executive Officer of J.C. Penney, the executive jumped in his car to drive to Steve Jobs’ home and notify the Apple co-founder in his living room of the decision. During his short car ride to Jobs’ Palo Alto home in the summer of 2011, Johnson likely thought about how he would explain his choice. But what Johnson likely did not imagine is that it would take nearly three years for Apple to find a true new leader for the stores the duo created.

In one of current Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first major missteps, the long-time operations maestro hired John Browett, formerly of Dixons, to run retail. Browett’s hire was immediately met with skepticism from Apple customers and retail employees, but Cook defended the hire and called the British executive the “best [choice] by far” to run Apple’s retail division. In the six months that he ran retail, Browett cut back on employee hours, initiated layoffs, and fell out culturally with the rest of the Apple executive team.

John Browett visiting Apple Store

Alongside Scott Forstall, Browett was ejected from the Cupertino-based company, leaving Tim Cook and head-hunting firm Egon Zehnder, again, with the tall task of finding a suitable replacement for Ron Johnson. As the man who ran Dixons, the United Kingdom equivalent to Best Buy, Browett was in many ways built in the image of Johnson. Johnson ran Apple Retail for nearly a decade, and before that he was an executive at both Target and Mervyns. But unlike Browett, Johnson fit into Apple’s culture and was close with both Jobs and Cook throughout his tenure.

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Ron Johnson Stories October 14, 2013

Burberry Group Plc CEO Angela Ahrendts At The London Stock Exchange

Apple today announced that it has finally filled the role of Senior Vice President of Retail: the Cupertino tech giant has hired Angela Ahrendts. Ahrendts is leaving her role as CEO of fashion retailer Burberry to take the top Apple retail job. Ahrendts will also lead Apple’s online stores. She will officially begin her role in Spring 2014.

You may recall Apple replaced its original Head of Retail Ron Johnson, who left for JCPenney but has since been removed from that role, with John Browett, but Browett proved not to be a good fit and was removed almost a year ago to date.

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Ron Johnson Stories June 9, 2013

We’ve got a pretty good idea of what Apple intends to give us at WWDC. Even the things we’re not so sure about seem on the radar.

But what does Apple need to do long term to tighten up the ecosystem and bring some excitement back into its hardware, software and services? I’ve got a few things…

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Ron Johnson Stories April 8, 2013

We’re all discussing this here and wondered what the wider Apple community thinks. expand full story

johnson_jobs

Former Apple Retail Chief Ron Johnson is out at JCPenney after his radical retail redesign failed to ignite sales in the same manner in which Apple Stores had grown accustomed. Ron Johnson left Apple in 2011 for the JCP job after a decade at Apple.  He helped design the original Apple Store concept after being lured away from Target by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He pioneered concepts like the Genius Bar which was unheard of at the time but still a growing trend in the industry.

We know more than a few folks who would like to see him back at Apple which meanwhile has found him difficult to replace. One such attempt was the hiring and subsequent firing of John Browett, a former Dixon’s UK CEO.

Johnson continued to live in the Bay area during his stint at JCP commuting to Plano Texas via Jet so…

We’ve reached out to JCP and Apple for comment and will update as appropriate. Press release follows: expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories November 26, 2012

Washington Square Films (NYC) gave us a rare look at one of the internal videos that Apple has shown its retail store employees. This one is obviously over a year old, with Ron Johnson at the helm (the date says 7/7/2011).

The video is a pretty impressive piece of work from director Peter Sillen for something that never aired publicly. Among other interesting tidbits, the video shows a store mock-up inside Covent Garden (London) in 2008 before construction with Apple execs examining design elements.

The video seems to be the type you might see on TV. And, with the departure of Ron Johnson (just guessing here), it might have been scrapped without stable store leadership to fill in. Bob Bridger, Apple’s vice president of Retail Development, gets significant ‘face time’, as well.

Update: The video was taken down by Apple. We’ve found another mirror in China embedded above. Here’s a mirror. Here’s another.

Thanks, Gary! expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories October 25, 2012

Ron Johnson’s leadership lessons from Apple: No shortcuts and shield team from tough times

Fortune is asking 21 luminaries the best advice they ever got. One of them is Apple’s former Senior Vice President of Retail Ron Johnson:

-Ron Johnson (CEO of J.C. Penney) on leadership lessons from Apple and how he’s applying them to his new position: “I remember when Apple went through a tough period. I didn’t feel the pain as much as Steve [Jobs] did. When you are in the leadership position, the tough times can be much more difficult, because your job is really to shield your team through that, to keep them from taking shortcuts. We are building J.C. Penney for the next century. It’s not about the quarter or the year.”

Ron Johnson Stories September 5, 2012

Laurene Powell Jobs to be appointed on Stanford University’s Board Of Trustees

TechCrunch reported that Steve Jobs’ widow, Larene Powell Jobs, would be appointed on Stanford University’s Board of Trustees later this afternoon. Powell Jobs is known for her work in the education field and is a graduate of Stanford University, where she got her MBA in business in 1991.

Stanford is the place where the couple met just after he gave a talk in one of her business classes in 1991. The Jobs’ family has strong ties to the university, which led to Jobs’ famous 2005 Stanford graduation commencement speech, as seen below.

Given Powell Jobs’ work in the education field, it makes sense for her to join the board. She has been involved with College Track, where she serves as the president of the board, and her other education duties include non-profit work like being the founder and chair of Emerson Collective.

Powell Jobs will join the ranks of 32 other board members, which includes Apple’s creator of the retail store and genius bar, Ron Johnson. He recently left Apple in November 2011 to join J.C. Penny as its CEO.

Congrats! [TechCrunch]

Ron Johnson Stories June 18, 2012

Did Apple just give every one of its retail employees a $4 raise? (Update: Nope)

Update: BusinessInsider issued the update below confirming our doubts:

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that all Apple Store employees were getting a raise of at least $4 per hour. This is what we were told by a single source at an Apple Retail store. But other Apple Retail store employees say this is not true. It is possible that only employees at one store are getting raises. We don’t know the full story, and we never should have written a story that indicated we did. It was an overreach, and we sincerely apologize for misleading readers.

While we find it a little hard to believe, BusinessInsider reported that a source said all Apple retail employees would receive a $4-per-hour raise starting July 20:

A source tells us that every Apple retail employee will get a $4-per-hour raise… This is based on an internal review process called NetPromoter that lets Apple employees critique the company… It seems that enough Apple employees thought they were underpaid that the company decided to spread some money around.

It is definitely possible that some retail employees will get the $4 raise, but we will wait for confirmation from Apple about all of its nearly 30,000 retail employees seeing the increase in pay. We talked to four different Apple employees from varied locations, but they have not heard anything about a raise. We previously reported that Apple’s recently appointed Senior Vice President of Retail John Browett has promised retail employees a three month advance on raises originally expected in September. We will keep you updated.

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Ron Johnson Stories April 25, 2012

John Browett starts new role as Apple Retail SVP

When we told you all about Apple’s new Retail Senior Vice President John Browett, appointed to replace J.C. Penney’s new CEO Ron Johnson in January, we knew Browett would move to Cupertino sometime in April to begin his new role. It looks like Apple has now officially welcomed Browett to the company with Apple’s investor website listing the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission mandatory filings that notify investors (and the SEC) of his official joining of the company. In the filing, it is revealed that Browett was issued 100,000 shares—worth roughly $60 million—with vesting dates at various milestones.

Ron Johnson Stories February 10, 2012

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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:

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Ron Johnson Stories January 27, 2012

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: expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories December 9, 2011

The Grand Central Terminal store opening had Steve Cano and Bob Bridger in attendance

Until November 1, 2011, Apple’s widely successful retail branch was headed by Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney’s new CEO. Since announcing his leave in June of this year, discussion has run ramptant in regards to the successor of Apple’s vital retail division’s leader. Under Ron Johnson sat three central executives responsible for the upkeep and success of Apple’s retail business: Jerry McDougal, Vice President of Merchandising; Bob Bridger, Vice President of VP of Real Estate; and Steve Cano, Senior Director of  International Retail Operations.

In early November, a report claimed that Steve Cano was tapped as the successor of Ron Johnson, but Apple quickly shot down this report and provided comment to 9to5Mac on the situation:

The search for a replacement for Ron Johnson continues, and Apple has nothing to announce about this subject at this time.

With Apple yet to announce a successor for Ron Johnson, the above comment still stands true. Apple has been actively searching for a new retail chief and according to a report from August, Apple has been working with world-renowned executive search firm Egon Zehnder International to find their new retail chief. At this point, it also appears that Jerry McDougall and Bob Bridger won’t be running Apple retail as neither of them are running the retail show right now.

So, who is running Apple retail?  expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories November 27, 2011

We obviously had to white out numbers above – From Apple’s Retail inventory system.

A source inside Apple Retail has shared with us the numbers for Apple’s Black Friday sales event.  Black Friday is always huge shopping day and Apple forecasted at least 4X sales for the day.  However, because Apple did have the lowest prices on big ticket items like the iPad, it blew away forecasts by 7PM and unsurprisingly had its biggest sales day of all time..

Apple Retail was forecast and broke Retail sales records all over the country today, this is from [redacted] today, the forecast today is more than 4 times what we normally do. We broke the forecast by 7pm.

MacBook Air sales were also particularly strong according to our source.

Apple Store discounts are extremely rare and with more Stores open than ever before, the temptation was too much for many. expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories November 21, 2011

Ron Johnson, the CEO of J.C. Penney and the former senior vice president for retail at Apple, ran a guest post detailing his Apple tenure over at the Harward Business Review blog, accompanying a monster interview which appears in the December 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review magazine.

Apple doesn’t owe its success in retail to shiny products, he said. “You don’t need to stock iPads to create an irresistible retail environment”, he said. “You have to create a store that’s more than a store to people”. Even though Apple products can be purchased for less elsewhere, people visit Apple’s stores for the experience, not products, he argued:

People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they’re willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better. That may sound hokey, but it’s true. expand full story

As Apple’s former retail chief Ron Johnson sets its sights on re-inventing the shopping experience at the J.C. Penney department stores and the search for his replacement continues, the Cupertino, California-headquartered gadget designer isn’t resting on its laurels. Future plans call for continuation of an aggressive retail expansion that includes 40 new stores during fiscal 2012, thirty of them outside the United States. expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories November 9, 2011

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former vice president of retail and the creator of the Apple Store, left for J.C. Penney November 1 and already he is picking industry veterans to join his leadership team at the Plano, Texas-headquartered department store chain. The Wall Street Journal reports that Johnson is tapping former Apple talent, including former chief financial office of Apple Retail Michael Kramer and Apple’s chief talent officer Daniel Walker.

Interestingly, it was Walker who helped Steve Jobs hire Ron Johnson to head Apple’s retail efforts. Both men served at Apple from 2000 to 2005. Granted, Walker and Kramer are both long-exited Apple people, but the temptation for current Apple talent to somehow make its way to Penney will always linger.

Sure, you might say who would  rather work at J.C. Penney rather than the most powerful, cool technology company in the world. But on a granular level, there might be high paying jobs with Johnson that Apple won’t match that could draw some top Apple talent.  Johnson himself is probably the best example of that.

There is also likely a non-compete clause in Ron Johnson’s severance agreement barring him from poaching Apple employees, but those are easily circumvented.  Just as Steve Jobs poached a bunch of his top Apple engineers to build out NeXT… expand full story

Ron Johnson Stories November 2, 2011

Steve Cano to replace Ron Johnson as Head of Retail at Apple? (Update: Search ongoing)

  Update: The reporters at Bloomberg are somehow using us as a source for this false rumor.  We’ve contacted them to correct but they’ve so far left it untouched.  Our report comes from iFoAppleStore and CultofMac (below) Updated from Cult of Mac: Apple has gotten back to us a statement, reading: “The search for a […]

Ron Johnson Stories June 21, 2011

According to his LinkedIn Profile, John Herbold has left the iCloud.  On his departure, he said:

I’ve been fortunate enough to define, ship and market a variety of products for one of the world’s most admired product companies. That opportunity was a great privilege.

Now I get to take that experience and apply it to the enormous challenge of materially improving youth health.

He is the third prominent Apple employee to leave the company in recent months (though much less so than the others), following MacOSX head Bertrand Serlet a few months ago and Stores leader Ron Johnson last week.

He was at Apple during the MobileMe rollout and managed to stay almost until the iCloud announcement this month.

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