When Joseph Guinto wrote about Ron Johnson, the new CEO of Plano-based J.C. Penney, in the September issue of D CEO, he raised a number of questions about what the former Apple and Target executive could do for the department store. On Johnson’s branding expertise:
If an executive from Apple is supposed to know anything, it is what the kids (under 35 counts, right?) want these days. And, anyone at Apple–where products launch with a similar look, feel, and level of hype–should have a solid understanding of branding. But Apple products cost a lot of money. The average price for a women’s blouse at J.C. Penney is $15. And, besides, is it fair to compare a shiny iPod to a pair of cotton underpants?
Well, J.C. Penney unveiled its big makeover plan this week, and it would seem that cotton underpants may be getting something closer to the iPod treatment. Stores will begin sporting a new logo (above), the company’s third in three years.
They’ve also unveiled new three-tiered, simplified pricing that they’re calling “Fair and Square Pricing,” which is meant to be represented by thatÂ subtly patriotic new logo. Ellen DeGeneres has been brought in as a spokesperson to “help bring the new jcpenney experience to life in her own fun-loving, sneaker-wearing, laugh-making way.”
But most remarkable of all? Johnson, the man behind the creation of Apple’s retail cathedrals hipster havens orgasmatrons shops is bringing some of that same philosophy to transform the staid department store design:
Mr. Johnson and (company president) Mr. Francis also outlined plans to entirely re-invent the jcpenney store experience, to include Main Street – the entire store merchandised in a series of 80 to 100 brand shops, rather than the confusing and seemingly endless racks common in department stores today. It will also feature Town Square – an exciting new place that replaces the traditional retail center core of a department store with a series of services, which customers will enjoy before they buy, while they shop and afterwards. And, throughout, the new jcpenney store experience will merge the physical and digital worlds, assuring the physical retail stores’ vital role as the centerpiece of retailing’s future.
Yep, sounds like J.C. Penney will soon sport its own version of Genius Bars. Just imagine it. One day soon you’ll be able to walk into “Town Square” at your local jcpenney (after you’ve made an appointment?) and ask for help with any number of issues, like “why can’t I fit into this pair of chinos,” orÂ “is my Liz Claiborne blouse compatible with this Gloria Vanderbilt custom-waist denim? Or do I need an upgrade?”
No wonder Forbes is calling J.C. Penney “the most interesting retail story of the year.”