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JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson Wants You to Make Yourself Comfortable and Stay Awhile

If nothing else, Plano-based J.C. Penney’s radical new strategies under CEO Ron Johnson have gotten the company a lot of press this year.  (Even aside from all the news about layoffs and the recent dismissal of the company’s shiny new marketing chief.)  We noted in January the plans by Johnson, who previously helped Apple launch its distinctive retail shops, to bring some of the “genius bar” sensibility to Penney’s store layouts.

The Dallas Morning News got a “sneak peek” at a prototype of the new design (in an undisclosed Dallas location):

Counters with stools – Apple store mainstays that started with the genius bar Johnson created a decade ago in his former job – are a common feature in the street mockup.

Checkout counters with cash registers are replaced by seating areas with sofas or long tables with built-in iPads and stools where shoppers can sit and access the Internet. At the end of the mocked-up street is a snack bar with a seating area and small tables.

The new ambiance is designed “to encourage people to come and stay a while,” Johnson said.

In the new store layout, Penney employees carry mobile checkouts, “right here,” Johnson said while holding up the palm of his hand. The new layout includes multipurpose bars where shoppers can pay with cash, return items, have something gift wrapped or pick up an online order.

The design is supposed to “inspire and engage shoppers and allow them to relax, refresh and gather,” Johnson said. “People shop in twos: a mother and daughter, a husband and wife, girlfriends. One of them can still be close by but get a cup of coffee or sit down and check email.”

“Our customers have never had a shopping experience like this,” he said while touring the prototype. “It’s all about a better store environment filled with respect for the customer.”

From my perspective, this is overkill. All I require is a plush, comfortable husband chair, and I’m set.

11 comments on “JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson Wants You to Make Yourself Comfortable and Stay Awhile

  1. Nobody goes to JC Penney now, but if there were couches they would stay longer? I like the way this is headed. And, from what I’ve read, I can get my iPad fixed while I’m there!

  2. It sounds nice but in actuality these couches and hang-out areas will discourage the true shopper. We were in Lovesac last month and they have a big problem with teenagers coming in groups and lounging around the furniture. The store policy is that “mall rats” have five minutes before they are asked to leave (there is a company sign) and yet we had to endure a foursome of snotty girls for over 45 minutes while we talked with the salesman. They wouldn’t even move to let us sit on the couch they took over. Why do you think Barnes and Noble got rid of their chairs? That invited a whole other subset of undesirables.

  3. I like in theory what Johnson are trying to accomplish at JCP. There was (is?) a lot of dead wood and dead thinking in a company and business model that has seen better days.

    Sadly, Johnson and his team are not in this for the long haul. Like several of his new top lieutenants, Johnson is not relocating his family here from California, and that tells me he is going to take the money and run. Turning around JCP is a long-term project, not something that will be fixed in 4-5 years.

  4. He wants the JCP customer service to be like the genius bar at Apple stores?

    Does that mean they will now hire unshaven hipsters with fake Buddy Holly glasses to sigh and roll their eyes every time a customer asks a question?

  5. @ meet the Beaver,

    this beaver has been here a while, so everyone has met the beaver already, As to your point, while I agree that with him not moving his family here, this seems short term, but then again, why the hell would his kids and wife want to leave Cali for the heat of Plano?

  6. I think they are alienating the existing JCP shoppers, and trading them for nobody. Hope Ron has a guaranteed contract.

  7. @SB To be near their Dad/Husband who will need at least 5-7 years to turn around the ship.

  8. Ron Jon/jcp just cashed in a “non-core” asset for $248 million. Think he’s going to cash out? I won’t shop at jcp again for how he’s handled the takeover and his disregard for many wonderful associates who worked long and hard to make their stores successful

  9. Ron Johnson is intentionally trying to take the company into bankruptcy, that way all of jcp debt will be forgiven and he can start from scratch, great idea for a multi millionaire, bad news for employees,