Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson at Apple’s grand Fifth Avenue store opening in NYC. Photo: Richard Agullar
Ron Johnson was Apple’s first head of retail, and he is widely credited with the early success of what is now the most profitable retail brand on Earth.
In a recent interview at Stanford University, his alma mater, Johnson reflected on his career in retail at brands like Target, Apple and J.C. Penney. He gave some insight into the decisions behind what makes the Apple Store “experience,” including why every store has always had free Wi-Fi.
Johnson also talked about the “intimate” relationship he had with Steve Jobs and shared a pretty surprising opinion about the late CEO.
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It takes a lot to be both New York City’s most photographed landmark and Apple’s most beautiful retail store. It’s rare that a shop can genuinely be said to take your breath away, but in the case of New York’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store, it lives up to its reputation — and then some.
A big glass box with a glass elevator in the middle, as well as a see-through staircase, complete with wrap-around glass banister, it’s a little bit like Apple’s long-forgotten (but spectacular) Power Mac G4 Cube — only so big that you can shop in it.
Grossing more than any other store in New York, and making more dosh per square foot than any other store in the world, exactly eight years after it opened its doors, Apple’s flagship retail store has become an iconic part of the New York landscape.
And like a lot of the best Apple products, it owes it all to Steve Jobs.
Apple has today announced that Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, will be joining the Cupertino company to take up a newly-created position as senior vice president of retail and online stores. Ahrendts will report directly to CEO Tim Cook and will oversee the strategic direction, expansion, and operation of Apple’s retail business.
Apple has been without a head of retail for nearly a year. Since John Browett was hired and quickly fired last year, Tim Cook has been in charge of the company’s retail operations. Apple has made it clear that it’s on the hunt for a new executive to fill the role, but there hasn’t been any candidates to fit the bill.
While Apple does occasionally make high-profile hires from other companies, promotions often happen from the inside. Tim Cook himself is an example. He was Chief Operations Officer before Steve Jobs died and made him CEO.
As Apple continues to seek a new retail leader, don’t expect the position to be filled by someone currently on Apple’s roster. But that doesn’t necessarily rule out former employees.
Former Apple Retail Chief Ron Johnson’s time at JC Penney was not a good one for the company. Johnson tried to revamp the retailer’s image from a clearing house for cheap junk sold at discounted prices during an endless spree of “sales” and “coupons” into a refined boutique, a store-within-a-store retail concept similar to the Apple Store.
The result? A $12.99 billion year-over-year decline in revenue that got Johnson fired as CEO after his first year on the job. And if that’s not bad enough, JC Penney is now adding insult to injury by releasing a commercial apologizing for the changes he made.
Steam! That’s what Steve Jobs would have had rocket from his ears when he heard about Facebook Home. We’ll explain why on our newest CultCast, but also covet aloud the one feature we hope Apple borrows for iOS. Plus, inside Leander Kahney’s Jony Ive book; Ron Johnson father of the Apple Store takes a boot to the rear; and we wrap with an all new Faves ‘N Raves, the segment where we pitch our favorite tech and apps then vote on which one’s best!
Stream or download new and past episodes of The CultCast on your Mac or iDevice by subscribing now on iTunes, or hit play below and let the good times roll.
Here’s some fantastic analysis on what ex-Apple retail chief Ron Johnson did wrong at JC Penney written by legendary Apple ad man Ken Segall, who completely rejects the idea that Ron Johnson didn’t understand JC Penney’s brand identity, and even wandered around quoting the company’s founder, who detested sales gimmicks. So what was the problem?
Now that former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson has been fired from his CEO gig at JC Penney, there’s a lot of talk about whether or not the man who created the juggernaut of Apple’s retail experience will return to Cupertino, to fill the very role he vacated back in 2010.
In an interview with Bloomberg, former Apple CEO John Sculley was asked about what Ron Johnson should do now. Sculley notes that one of the best things about our business culture is that we allow people to fail, and that hiring Johnson would be a coup by any company.
First headhunter on the list? It should be Samsung, says Sculley.
Morale at JC Penney has weakened since Johnson was put in charge 16 months ago. The company has been bleeding money, and Johnson’s retail strategies have not seen success. Johnson’s departure doesn’t come as much of a shock to those who have been following his failed attempts to revitalize the department store chain.
Ron Johnson is taking the lessons he learned from Steve and applying them to JC Penny
Even though Steve Jobs gets credit for making the gutsy move to open Apple retail stores across the country, Ron Johnson deserves a lot of praise for the Apple Store’s success.
Johnson’s vision helped Steve create the most successful chain of retails stores on the planet. Then Johnson left to become the CEO of JC Penny, where he’s faced some heavy criticism for his efforts to revitalize the brand. According to Apple’s old marketing guru Ken Segall, Ron is a visionary in his own right, and he’s transforming JC Penny just like Steve Jobs transformed Apple.