J.C. Penney Needs to Fire Delusional Ron Johnson Now
Ron Johnson had absolutely nothing to do with Apple's success. He rode shotgun to Steve Jobs. Jobs was the architect -- quite literally -- of Apple's brick and mortar concept. Like Tim Cook ran a supply chain, Johnson dutifully did what Jobs asked of him. He did not imagine the reshaping of retail; Jobs did.
All you need as proof for that thesis is a glance at the physical manifestation and conceptual rhetoric of Johnson's "strategy" to transform the department store. He's not reinventing anything. There is no transformation. There's no comparison to Apple. And probably not even Target.
A store within a store. That's been done before. And it's a dumb idea. Specialized customer service. Again, Johnson anoints himself brainchild.
The "novel" notion of allowing people to use tablets to get online and hang out in your store? Johnson is attempting to create an association that does not exist. That, for some unknown reason, shoppers will hang around and do tablet research at JCP the way they do at an Apple Store. He might as well install batting cages instead of fitting rooms.
The Apple retail concept works at Apple because it's uniquely Apple. If it can't work at Microsoft (MSFT) , it's sure as hell not going to work at JCP.
The great Ken Segall explains away Johnson's abject failure with what amounts to a well-intentioned excuse: It's not easy to remodel hundreds of department stores all at once. It's too bad Johnson cannot start from scratch across the board. That might be valid if what Johnson planned to do actually had a chance of working.
If you're going to burn through half a billion dollars in a year and likely have to tap credit at some point, use the resources to demolish all of your stores and start over. From there, truly disrupt the department store model; don't just tweak at it with tired tools inspired by the culture of obviousness.
Johnson would have been better off doing nothing but watching YouTube videos at headquarters for the last year. He's in over his head, attempting to execute a pseudo-turnaround he lacks the creative capabilities to envision.
It's over. Fire Johnson. Find a buyer. Beg a competitor to bail you out. Hire somebody from Google (GOOG) and give it another go. I don't know. But step one in what will make Blackberry's (BBRY) collapse look tame has got to be firing Ron Johnson. Now.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.