Buy AMZN on Weakness, Sell JCP on Strength

Tickers in this article: AMZN TGT AAPL JCP P
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- J. C. Penney (JCP) CEO Ron Johnson comes off as a likeable guy. All it takes is a quick glance at the presentation he gave investors in January to figure that out.

Near the beginning of his speech, Johnson tells the story of going to Steve Jobs's house to inform him he would be leaving Apple(AAPL) to take a new gig. When Johnson told him he was headed to J. C. Penney, Jobs asked him -- paraphrasing here -- if he was crazy.

Johnson made a connection between Target(TGT) , Apple and J. C. Penney. Follow this logic: According to Johnson, when he left Target for Apple, people thought he was nuts because Target was doing great and Apple not so much. And now, yet again, he chose to leave a company at the top of its game for one facing considerable headwinds.

Johnson pointed out, however, that it was not quite the same situation. J. C. Penney is in better shape today than Apple was when he moved to Cupertino. Johnson further made the incredibly optimistic leap that, on his watch, J. C. Penney would go on the same trajectory as Apple did between 2000 and 2011.

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If we use stock price as a gauge, we can expect JCP to appreciate by approximately 1,600%. Using Tuesday's closing price of $35.67, that type of pop would put JCP at about $606 a share come 2023. I realize the unfair lunacy of this projection, but Johnson appeared to be quite serious when he set this expectation for himself.

J. C. Penney Will Not Save Brick-and-Mortar Retail

In retail, most companies lack the three things needed to survive in a world defined by on-demand, instant gratification and social media:
  • A seamless ecosystem
  • High-end or exclusive products
  • A unique or special in-store or online experience
  • As a brick-and-mortar and online retailer, Apple scores high on all three counts. On exclusivity it lacks just a little, but it compensates for this elsewhere. You can buy Apple products from various sources; however, for most of us, picking up an iPad at Target is little more than an impulse buy. That's why they're there. To drive unplanned purchases and serve those not in close proximity to an Apple retail store.

    When we set out to buy an Apple product, we do it at the Apple Store. Why? Because it's the cool thing to do, plus we desire the experience Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson created.

    J. C. Penney does not score high on any of these three points. And there's really no chance it ever will. A flea market has a better chance at survival than a department store not located in the heart of world-class cities such as New York and London.