Ron Johnson wants to sprinkle Apple Store magic at e-retailer Nasty Gal


Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson at Apple's Fifth Avenue Apple Store grand opening.
Steve Jobs and Johnson at Apple's Fifth Avenue Apple Store grand opening. Photo: Richard Agullar
Photo: Richard Agullar

Former Apple retail boss Ron Johnson is taking on a new mission: helping online retailer Nasty Gal move into the brick-and-mortar retail space.

According to Re/code, Johnson is leading a $16 million investment in the ultra-chic brand, which started out in 2006 as an eBay store, and has risen to bring in more than $100 million in annual revenue. Johnson will also be joining the company’s board of directors, while simultaneously acting as the CEO of his as-yet-unlaunched e-commerce startup, Enjoy.

Interestingly, there’s an addition Apple connection, since Johnson and Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso — who recently stepped down as CEO — was introduced to Johnson by James Higa, a previous Steve Jobs confidante and Apple employee. While Nasty Gal already has one brick-and-mortar store, the plan is to open more; which is where Johnson’s retail expertise comes into play.

“Ron was always my first choice,” Amoruso said. “We don’t have an aggressive rollout planned,” she continued, describing Nasty Gal’s retail store strategy. “We want to get another one open, learn a lot and then hopefully destroy everyone.”

Since leaving Apple, Johnson has had mixed success. Despite trying to sprinkle some Apple retail magic onto JC Penny, where he briefly became CEO, his plan to revitalize the stores was a dud — with Johnson trying to overhaul the chain too quickly, without visibly changing the stores to justify the new prices. Having eliminated non-Apple concepts like sales and coupons, JC Penny is still blaming Johnson for its slow growth in the years since.

With brand new boutique stores to deal with instead of refreshing tired old ones, Nasty Gal seems like a much better fit for Johnson, who genuinely was one of the key movers in the Apple Store’s early success. We look forward to seeing how he gets on.