Ron Johnson starting to look a lot more maniacal than brilliant

“When a senior executive makes the move from Target to Apple, the world’s most exciting technology company, you pat him on the back, say, ‘Nice job,’ and buy him a few rounds,” Steve Tobak writes for FOX Business. “When that same executive jumps ship to go to JCPenney, you wonder if maybe he fell and hit his head on something.”

“While hindsight is always 20-20, that really should have been a clue right there that something bad was about to happen. Even so, I doubt if anyone could have foreseen what Johnson had in mind when he showed up for work at JCP headquarters in November of 2011,” Tobak writes. “Don’t get me wrong. I have loads of respect for the guy and what he accomplished as head of retail operations at Apple. Those Apple stores are true genius, no two ways about it. But Johnson’s attempt to completely remake JCPenney in Apple’s image is starting to look a lot more maniacal than brilliant.”

And maybe I’m crazy, too, but I can sort of see where he was going with his ‘it worked at Apple so it should work here’ strategy,” Tobak writes. “I just wonder if maybe he shouldn’t have stopped, just for a moment, to take a deep breath and consider the obvious: That what a one-of-a-kind talent like Steve Jobs did at a one-of-a-kind company like Apple with a remarkable string of one-of-a-kind products like iPod, iPhone and iPad, might not generate the same results at a commodity clothing retailer that’s more or less at the opposite end of the business spectrum in every way that counts.”

Tobak writes, “In a novel concept, he brought free Wi-Fi to the stores — even though there’s no seating and it makes no sense. I mean, why would anyone sit in a JCPenney store and surf the web? It’s not Starbucks.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Today is like the winding of a catapult upon whose arm sits Ron in his executive chair. Wonder if the Penney board will yell “fire!” or not?

Related articles:
If JC Penney fires CEO Ron Johnson, analyst predicts bankruptcy – March 8, 2013
J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson cuts 2,200 more jobs as sales plunge – March 8, 2013
J.C. Penney posts large loss as sales sink further – February 27, 2013
JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson capitulates, brings back sales – January 28, 2013
Apple retail’s Ron Johnson and John Browett have proved the Peter Principle is alive and well – November 13, 2012
CEO Ron Johnson switches J.C. Penney to two-tier pricing with price-match guarantee – July 26, 2012
Why is Ron Johnson’s retail strategy for J.C. Penney failing? – June 26, 2012
J.C Penney’s stock tumbles after key exec’s abrupt exit – June 19, 2012
J.C. Penney reports loss and plummeting sales in 1Q – May 15, 2012
Why Ron Johnson left Apple to head JC Penney – April 30, 2012
J.C. Penney lures another executive from Apple – April 26, 2012
Steve Jobs’ ex-lieutenant Ron Johnson adds $1.5 billion to J.C. Penney in two days – January 30, 2012
J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson: What I learned building the Apple Store – November 21, 2011
New J.C. Penney CEO Johnson hiring former Apple co-workers – November 9, 2011
Why Apple’s retail genius Ron Johnson is paying for the privilege of running J.C. Penney – June 15, 2011
Apple’s retail store chief Johnson off to J.C. Penney; expected to become CEO within months – June 14, 2011


    1. I almost feel you havent been to JCP in over a year. I admit before Ron got there it was the equivalent to K-Mart but since his arrival Ive given it a second chance and the quality and prices are great. I shop there over Macys on a regular basis. Its not bloomingdales or Nordstroms but it def. Holds its own.

  1. Ron’s problem was in making changes in all the stores rather than trying out his ideas in a small number of stores first. This disaster is the result of overconfidence and a lack of good judgment.

  2. He must not have been that close to Steve. All of his real lieutenants are smart enough to recognize that they can’t be him and have no business pretending. There can only be one (Infinite Loop).

  3. Honestly, I love the stuff Ron is doing at jcp. I haven’t shopped there in years. I decided to take a look after he announced the changes, and I like what I saw.

    The problem for me is two-fold. First, enough of the store hasn’t changed to the new format yet. Second, habits are extremely hard to overcome. I am so out of the habit of shopping at jcp, I have to remind myself to shop there.

    I hope the Board will give Ron the time to finish changing the stores and consumers will bother to take a look.

    BTW, there is seating in some sections of our local jcp (and it is a small market store), so the Wi-Fi can come in handy while waiting.

  4. I don’t know about maniacal but a foolish choice by Ron Johnson that’s for certain. The author of the article hits the nail on the head when he says selling clothes is not like selling Apple products. That pretty much says it all. There’s a fine line between ego and ambition. Sometimes that line gets blurred and people make bad decisions. I think Bill Ackman and the JCPenney board will be making a decision soon.

  5. Trying to position JCP as high end, when their products are more akin to a “Dollar Store”, was plain moronic. It proves that it would not have mattered what Apple Stores looked like and that Ron’s influence was meaningless. Apple Stores succeed because Apple’s products are unique and compelling and would have sold en-masse if they were retailed from a hot dog cart. As is all too common, some moron with an MBA takes credit and tries to assert it was his doing.

  6. The problem is Ron is fighting a battle against extremely strong currents — the decline of the department store concept, the long standing JC Penny image, and a rough retail economy. It’s not like the guy had no experience outside of Apple (Target is doing pretty well).

    The real problem is the product and perception. His changes have driven off JCP’s current customer — the sales shopper — and has not attracted new shoppers in numbers yet because the product hasn’t differentiated it from other stores yet.

    If JCP had continued as it was pre-Ron, it would simply continue its slow death spiral. If Ron is given time to be successful, JCP could be a fantastic turn-around for one of America’s storied retailers. If not, then he may simply hasten what was happening anyway.

  7. I give RJ his due for rolling the dice with JCP. I for one hate all the sale BS and prefer the concept of everyday pricing, but the Soccer Moms and Teeny Boppers that seem to buy most of the stuff companies like JCP want to sell did not bite. Retail clothes are a tough market that is very fickle.

    One wonders who the guy/gal is that gets to decide what is the ‘it’ brand all the lemmings must have for school or not be cool. The backside, the signal when a hot brand is no longer cool, is decided by the number of nerds and parents wearing said ‘hot’ brand. Whoever gets to decide such things has not smiled upon JC Penney for a very long time.

  8. Apple products and Jobs made the store. Not him.

    Clueless JCP really thought Johnson was the genius behind the sales of Apple products? That shows u how out of touch they really are.

  9. Journalistic hyperbole aside, if this is true: “I doubt if anyone could have foreseen what Johnson had in mind when he showed up for work at JCP headquarters in November of 2011,”
    then the board didn’t do a very thorough job interviewing Mr. Johnson. In which case they deserve what they get!

  10. I think the biggest problem is that though the changes may be great , most people (myself included) have not gone to a JCP to see them in person.

    I plan to stop by this weekend.

  11. I am really not surprised with his bad decisions, the true genius of apple retail was Steve Jobs, the design of the stores was Steve, the overall concept was Steve. I was working in Apple retail as the iPod was really starting to boom. The latter stages of my time there you could see Ron’s influence. What made it great at the start was the store design and the focus on customer experience and the hiring of real Apple people. Ron’s influence was not all that positive more focus on metrics and the hiring of retail people and not apple people. They were hiring managers that had never owned a Mac.

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