JCPenney hires an Apple innovator (part 1)

JCPenney’s recent hiring of Ron Johnson (the driving force behind The Apple Store) was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm by Wall Street and by RetailWire panelists. In my opinion, Mr. Johnson has his hands full:

Mr. Johnson had the advantage (at Apple) of creating a store experience from scratch while working with a tightly edited, innovative, single-brand assortment. He will face a more complex challenge at JCP, especially because the company’s overassortment and lackluster positioning need to be addressed first in order to transform the store experience. No amount of re-engineering can disguise gaps in product development.

Is the traditional department store concept ripe for reinvention? Absolutely…and Ron Johnson is a great hire to make it happen. Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not…JCP has missed a golden opportunity (with the demise of May Department Stores) to become THE moderate, promotional alternative to Macy’s while a more innovative store operator (Kohl’s) has actually bypassed Penney in annual sales.



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