Welcome to JC Penney, Ron Johnson! Here’s What You’ve Got To Fix [Gallery]


Now that Apple's ex-VP of Retail is CEO, this Cupertino, California store has become JC Penney's flagship store.
Now that Apple's ex-VP of Retail is CEO, this Cupertino, California outlet has become JC Penney's flagship store.

Earlier today, Apple’s former VP of Retail Ron Johnson shocked everyone by ending his eleven year career in Cupertino to become CEO of JC Penney, a middle-of-the-road department store chain which sells clothing like this.

At Apple, Johnson famously invented the Apple Store concept, defined by each location’s uniiform low-key community vibe, easily accessible solution stations, troubleshooting Genius Bars and uncluttered and austerely aesthetic layouts. At JC Penney, however, Johnson will largely have to reinvent the 1,100 retail stores he’s already got… and what he’s got sure isn’t pretty. Check out this small sample of JC Penney department stores currently blighting the American landscape.

From JC Penneys built in what appear to be Soviet Era nuclear bunkers to JC Penneys built over what appears to be gaping holes in the Earth, Johnson’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to turn this retail outlet around.

Ghastly… and this is just what the outsides look like. Can you imagine anything less Apple-like? No wonder Apple’s official response to Johnson’s move was an eye-roll and a sarcastic good luck with that.

  • Bobbo87

    Rob Johnson?  Seriously?

  • Bjohnson

    He did come from Target, after all, so I guess it isn’t too much of a stretch.

  • Khrbt Zyd

    Why so much hate toward JC Penney?

  • Sacks_world

    You know the guy has enough money and I don’t blame him for trying something new. A good challenge ahead of him.

  • thumbmaster

    I don’t blame him for leaving Apple. Where was he gonna go? He’d never be CEO there. He’s about as high up at Apple as he can be. Best of luck to him at JC Penney. He’s got (a TON) of work cut out for him.

  • thumbmaster

    Must be CoM’s nickname for him.  ;-)

  • imajoebob

    This whole attitude about JC Penney is prima facie evidence that the asshole reputation of the stereotype Fanboy is well earned.  As well your little snark about their product line you intentionally failed to mention they carry brands like Claiborne, Van Heusen, Dockers, Joseph Aboud, Gloria Vanderbilt, Columbia, Nicole Miller, and even Vans.  I dare say you could probably dress 99% of the people on Infinity Loop most days of the week from the JC Penney catalog (if they hadn’t killed it this year).

    Drop the dickish attitude and start reporting this straight: 

    JC Penney grabbed one of the leading names in retail away from Apple in an effort to revise, refresh, renew, and revive the historic retailer.  JC Penney are the 45th largest retailer in the world (’09 numbers), with nearly 10 times the retail sales of Apple.  Johnson brings his success establishing Apple Stores as destination shops, and forging a corporate image that transfers from store to store, consistent with Apple’s overall company image.  Johnson will be challenged to develop a similar corporate rebranding for Penney’s 1,100+ stores (many in retail spaces shared with Apple Stores), which have been in search of a new identity for a number of years.

  • Phil

    Hmmm. Me thinks Target will acquire JCPenny and Jon is on his way to CEO of Target.

  • TheWatcher

    So typical of the snark and condescension here at CoM. The “dickish attitude” here lately — to steal a line from the first commenter — has become such an amazing turn-off. It’s almost as bad as the generally weak writing and complete lack of editing.

  • iHate_Is_Back


    Brownlee if I was to check a dictionary for the definition of “arrogant fashionista” I’d probably see a picture of you. You have any idea how many people in the USA shop at JC Penny day in day out and actually buy a lot of clothing and what not from there? Your arrogant ramblings fail to consider that an Apple Store which by definition is a specialty boutique electronics store usually showcases, not counting third party products ,what 9,10,15, 20 products? Meanwhile in a full fledged dept store like JC Penny we have what, 100, 500, 1000 different products most of which are completely different products and have nothing at all to do with one another.

    In short a stores layout will be a completely different setup for the simple fact an Apple Store caters to a specific product line with a limited number of products and a specific consumer type in mind while a full fledged dept store caters to a large cross section of consumers and tries to attract them through the doors by pure choice of volume. Because of this the floor setup of a dept store has to be different and the layout can’t consist of large stupid tables taking up x amount of room with a sample of 5 or 6 products lying on top of it and an army of a 1000 employees running back and forth to a hidden stock room.

    Of coarse Brownlee from your past rantings, I won’t call them articles, and your current hoity toity nose in the air latest rant I can only surmise you’re one of those guys who goes to a men’s boutique store and slams down 75 bucks on a cotton T-shirt just because it has some fancy designer label on it. The only comment I have about that is well good for you keep shelling out the Benjamen’s on over priced high fashion meanwhile me and 90% of N. America will continue buying the exact same T-shirt minus the fashion labels for 20 bucks at the nearest JC Penny.

    All other comments aside Brownlee I have to congratulate you on this latest rant because after reading it I was actually able to learn something new today. Until now I always thought someone who was schooled in writing and had a commanding vocabulary was supposed to be of good intellect. Considering you come across as an arrogant fashion victim with no understanding of mass retail vs boutique retail I can only be left with the assumption that there’s always a low IQ loon in every bag of apples no matter what type of apple’s they may be.


  • Conrad

    I suspect Johnson may find it more difficult to repair something that’s already broken than to build something from scratch. That clean slate sure is nice…

  • imajoebob

    A department store like JC Penney carries THOUSANDS, not hundreds of items, and each of those comes in scores of variations (size, color, cut, etc.).  It’s comparable to the difference between a coffee cart and a supermarket.

  • iHate_Is_Back

    I stand corrected
    Post reedited

  • CultOfJCPenny.com

    Yeah, you tell that Brownlee jerk what’s up. Finally, some readers who have thoughts of their own and aren’t just mindless fanboys. Follow me on my blog CultOfJCPenny.com

    –get over it

  • imajoebob

    Meant it as “further info” not a knock on your post.  Comparison wasn’t clear; coffee cart is Apple Stores, not your portrayal of JCP.

  • Dickusmagnus

    It takes an elitist like the author of this article to make it look look like JCP is just plain out of it. In fact they serve their customers very well in their own niche, a cut above Walmart and some cuts below Brooks Brothers. Few do it better and many do it a lot worse. Good brands, quality merchandise, good returns policy, good prices, friendly clerks. Not really something to make fun of unless you are among the clueless and/or have an agenda.
    Maybe the Apple store guy will dress all the JCP clerks in black shirts.

  • Mystakill

    Maybe he’s just looking for a new challenge.  Too much of the same can get boring for some.

  • Clydeskid

    You know, I’ve officially had it with Apple and Cult of Twinkle-toed Fanboyz. The post right after the tragedy in Japan was bad enough. You know the headline, Don’t Worry Fanboyz, The Disaster and Suffering in Japan Won’t Hurt iPad Production. Ok, that’s just what I go out of the real title. A guy leave Apple and the Twinkie Fanboyz need to beat up on him? You do realize Steve Jobs is a real pill  to work for don’t you? When you read about Stevie boy demanding, the night before showing the iPod, they fix a petty click the headphone jack wasn’t making that it’s just Steve trying to add something to the product. Steve is like the kid who jumps on the pack after the tackle has been made so he can “contribute”. 

    Seriously with the computer hardware getting worse and worse and the Fanboyz attacking anyone who dares say something true about their gawd. Lenovo here I come. 

    I’m out. 

  • Paul Gee

    Brilliant! Either you are a professional reporter or you could get a job as one. I am a magazine editor – nothing to do with computers (sailing, actually) and your re-write of this story is impartial and factual and reveals how perceptions can be twisted by writers (like Cult of Mac’s commentator) who have an axe to grind. “Facts are sacred, comment is free” said C.P. Scott the late and great editor of The Manchester Guardian. And never should the two be mixed in professional journalism.

  • Apple4Play

    Stfu, jc penny are for cheapskate without taste in fashion. Their clothes look like trash. Only redneck would wear those jcpenny. In Cali, we only shop at Nordstrom, Macys, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Sak Fifth Ave . Apple is the Louis Vuitton and Hermes of the electonic world.

  • Apple4Play

    Another redneck without a taste in fashion.

  • Apple4Play

    Totally agree with the author. Jcpenny sucks with its choice of clothes, and bad taste in fashion.

  • Apple4Play

    What the point of caring thousands of trash product? 99cents store got more product than ur jcpenny

  • Alex Williams

    As a whole, I really like this website. But when I see a fellow with the name of “John Brownlee” writing the “article” I skip past it.

    The man’s an elitist idiot. And that’s coming from me, an Apple fanboy/manic. How can one man be so blind? 

    Good God. Brownlee, you should stop writing for this site. And writing in general. Because you’re a horrible writer.

    When you’re not totally wrong about a fact (a rarity), you’re an elitist ass. Every. Single. Time.

    Let me (an amateur) teach you a few things about not writing like you’re actually a credible person. 

    1. Everything you write here: Do the opposite.
    2. Journalism is about being unbiased. I know this is technically a blog, and it’s okay to have opinion but you need to back it up with SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Or at least be reasonable. Not “OMG THIS GUYS AN IDIOT LOOK AT THE PARKING LOT OF THIS STORE WTF?! VERY UN-APPLE LIKE” Just because Apple has superb design skills does NOT mean it’s for everyone. 
    3. Check your facts. Seriously, you publish crap a lot of the time that’s just plain wrong.
    4. See step one. It needs to be reiterated.

    If you can’t change, stop writing. Stop. It’s annoying, unprofessional and turns you into a laughing stock. When I see your name on a story here, I skip it. Because I know it’s going to be utter, ridiculous, biased, idiotic BS.

    I only clicked on this one because I’m interested in this story for what it’s really about: A business decision. I didn’t expect to see this crap. Do you think he really should not have taken this job because JC Penney does not look like Apple? Do you think he doesn’t know that?!

    You should call him and let him know. I’m sure he’ll change his mind.

    God. The idiocy.

  • Alex Williams

    I don’t think you understand.

    It’s not about whether JCP is “good” or “bad.” It’s about the author and his idiodic, blind, laughably-bad writing.

    JCP could be horrible, smell like butt and sell bags of monkey poop. That’s not what this is about! It’s about the AUTHOR, writing STUPID STUFF without any kind of integrity at a writer at all.

  • iHate_Is_Back

    Ehhhhh shut up or I’ll call you’re mom and she’ll take away your internet privileges

  • J. Peterman

    Woah! After reading the comments, I actually read “the article” or rather blog post and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I am surprised, that quite a few commentarts are offended. If J.C. Penney’s business was that peachy nowadays, Johnson wouldn’t have joined them. Gawd! Johnson acquired a  $50000000 stake in the company. He will completely remodel the stores inside out and outside in.

  • Freek Monsuur

    The stores look terrible from the outside, but that means it’s easy to improve it. A lot easier than improving the Apple Stores…

    A few suggestions:
    – big glass entry
    – new, coloured logo
    – aluminium corrugated sheets on the outside
    – circular paths in the stores
    – highest possible ceilings
    – lots of white, with coloured accents (new bright jc penny colour scheme)
    – and of course Apple corners

  • WVMikeP

    Having shopped at a few JCPenneys, I do have to side with the author here.  Their storefronts are abominations.  There is A LOT to fix with that company’s public-facing presence.  It’s not that it can’t be done, but Ron Johnson’s got his work cut out for him.

  • WVMikeP

    Yet it’s sad that a discount chain such as Target is able to create better looking stores.

  • WVMikeP

    Much of what he writes does drive me bonkers, but keep in mind, this is a BLOG.  On blogs, true journalism tends to be the exception not the rule.  Why should Cult of Mac be any different?

  • WVMikeP

    What is worth making fun of is the design of their stores, inside and out.  If they can address that, I’m sure they’ll get more foot traffic.

  • thelee

    wow people are inexplicably sensitive over JCPenney-bashing.

  • Ken Hughes

    It’s called a “challenge” and some people like them. Especially those with more money than they know what to do with. I’m interested in seeing how JC Penney’s image changes.

  • imajoebob

    As a percent, the amount of “trash” in a JCP  is probably lower than the Apple Store.  Peruse their collection of iPod socks, earbud coilers, $600 LaCie 30GB drives, and all that Microsoft Office crap and tell me how great the merchandise is.

  • JeeBee

    If the guy likes a challenge in retail sales, then moving to a company that is larger and more focused on retail sales like JC Penney, and that seemingly last had a brand refresh in the 1970s looking at those storefronts, is a great move for him.

    Hell, all he needs to do in the beginning is make them less … dark, dingy and scary looking, presumably by bringing in some sunlight through the roofs and entrances where possible by using glass. And less beige.

  • Harryd

    Yes, Penney’s has it problems and most of them stem from rampant nepotism. However, it’s not dead like you make it out to be. They have good distribution, own most of their sites (yes, even the mall sites) and have a well known but worn brand.  They own the bridal, diamond, socks &  undeerwear, and shoe markets. They need someone to come in and provide a new vision and this could be the first step in that direction. With their strong foundation, this could be a buying opportunity.

  • Ememe

    Hey, selling underwear o your grandma is different than selling iPads…btw, SVP of retail from Apple doesnt design, control the supply chain nor do investments for the company.

  • imajoebob

    Thanks.  If I were allowed an addendum to Mr Scott, it would be “I don’t work for free, so I try to keep it to the facts.”

    If Brownlee wants to trash Penney’s that’s his business.  I just got annoyed with the overly pervasive attitude and complete lack of information or substance to the post(s).  And a little “truth in labelling” wouldn’t hurt.

  • Rann Xeroxx

    This post really did make me LOL.  I normally cannot find anything that I want when I wonder into a JCP but the snobbishness displayed by the elites here is appalling. 

  • Just Sayin’

    Additional JCP photos…

  • John Stafford

    the amount of products in an apple store to jc penney’s is way different. even his target experience, target sells everyday consumables that pennies doesn’t. His hype will fall to failure, pennies front line employees are not apple employees. way more competition too, so margin has to be competitive, you can’t sell quality at pennies all of sudden, against nordstrom, macys or saks. he is Kohl’s territory,  overbought inventories, high cotton prices… he must have gotten a big payday to jump ship.

    Read Gap, Inc’s forward looking concerns regarding clothing, which is most of jc pennies clothing sales. 

    amekup will help but not enough, since they don’t have global stores.

    old navy had a straight crew cotton colored shirt for $3.00 on sale last week in phoenix. I’ve seen the same shirt for $6.00 at pennies. last time I saw for $4.00 was before xmas in 2009. 

    they have bought heavy in cargo shorts, and not gone after this years stile of plad patchwork patterns like their stylish competitors.