When Ron Johnson left Target to become Apple’s Retail Chief in 2000, people thought he was absolutely nuts. Apple was in danger of going out of business, and other PC manufacturers like Gateway were closing their retail locations. Johnson ignored all the warning signs because he says he saw that Apple was about to be a huge part of the digital revolution. He also recognized that Apple offered consumers something other companies couldn’t – amazing products and an incredible retail experience.
In a recent interview at Fortune Conferences, Johnson explained why customers choose to come to the Apple store to buy their products when they could get them on Amazon or Best Buy for a lot cheaper:
You can get every Apple product every day cheaper at Amazon, many times elsewhere. But people come to the store, and that’s because the store offers something people need, which is really help and support and connecting, because I think there’s always been this idea in a high tech world, people really strive for high touch.
If you really look at what happens at an Apple store, it’s connections happening. It’s a genius with a person trying to solve a problem. It’s someone getting personal training. It’s someone getting their products set up before they leave the store. It’s someone learning about something that might change their life. You know, so there’s these connections that are really necessary in a digital world, you know, because you want that offset of the physical world. You want that physical experience.
In November of 2011, Johnson left Apple to become the CEO of JC Penny – another struggling company that he hopes to turn around. Under Johnson’s guidance, Apple quickly became one of the world’s most successful retailers. Apple stores earn more money per square-foot than any other retail location in the world. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without Ron Johnson and Steve Jobs’s vision of providing customers with the excellent experience you can now receive inside Apple’s metal and glass palaces.