Ron Johnson, JC Penney’s CEO that gave up a position as head of Apple’s retail stores, is attempting to change the way people shop by redefining what it means to shop at a department store. From doing away with sales, changing pricing, and bringing in hip brands to create micro shops inside the store. Johnson has also redesigned the store layouts–instead of rows of clothing racks, each brand has its own microstore. Even more interestingly, Johnson plans on creating a “town square” in the middle of each store where activities like Pilates will be held:
Since leaving Apple to become Penney’s CEO in November, Johnson has been overhauling everything from the retailer’s pricing to its merchandise to its stores. He got rid of most sales. He’s brought in hip brands. And he’s replacing rows of clothing racks with small shops that make the stores feel like outdoor mini malls.
But since Penney started the changes, the chain has reported three consecutive quarters of big losses on steep sales declines. Its stock has lost more than half its value. Its credit rating is in junk status. And critics are beginning to doubt that Johnson has what it takes to make the chain cool.
“He’s trying to start a retail revolution without an army of consumers behind him,” says Burt Flickinger, III, president of a retail consultancy. “Penney will suffer dire financial and competitive circumstances as a result.”
But Johnson, 53, a Midwest native who speaks about his vision for J.C. Penney Co. with boyish enthusiasm, is undeterred: “Lots of people think we’re crazy. But that’s what it takes to get ahead.”