It’s clear that retail guru Ron Johnson couldn’t recreate the astounding success he enjoyed at Apple during his 17-month stint at J.C. Penney, but the situation is so dire for the retail chain that it has begun to run an apology commercial acknowledging that the changes instituted by Mr. Johnson were not appreciated by customers.
After leaving Apple in late 2011 to assume the position of CEO at J.C. Penney, Mr. Johnson introduced broad changes to the company’s core business model. In an attempt to mirror the appeal of Apple Retail Stores, he sought to replace J.C. Penney’s chaotic pricing and inventory system with a simplified three-tiered model that offered discounts on targeted items for a predefined period of time instead of short-notice clearance sales.
Mr. Johnson also made it a priority to enhance the company’s image so as to attract higher-end boutique brands. Although never fully implemented, his plans called for a series of “stores within a store,” in which various brands would occupy uniquely designed sections of the store around a central “town square” which would house customer service and shopper amenities.
Although Mr. Johnson’s plans were met with positive feedback from the media and retail industry watchers, the changes never caught on with customers, and the company’s board of directors could no longer ignore the mounting financial losses. With revenues down 25 percent in 2012, and losses of $552 million in the fourth quarter, the J.C. Penney board fired Mr. Johnson in early April, replacing him with his direct predecessor, Mike Ullman.
Now, as the company gears up for spring and attempts to determine its future, it has released a new apology commercial, titled “It’s No Secret,” which reads:
It’s no secret, recently JCPenney changed. Some changes you liked and some you didn’t, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful. Come back to JCPenney, we heard you. Now, we’d love to see you.
Although viewed in context as an attempt to distance itself from its former CEO, Bloomberg reports that development of the commercial began several months ago during Mr. Johnson’s tenure. It’s therefore unknown if the commercial was designed with its current perception in mind, or if it was part of Mr. Johnson’s revised plans to save the company.
In the wake of his dismissal from J.C. Penney, there is much speculation over Mr. Johnson’s future, with many hoping that he returns to Apple. The Cupertino company has been unable to find a suitable replacement since Mr. Johnson’s departure, and Apple CEO Tim Cook could arguably benefit from the return of a company veteran.