In his business column today in the DMN, our old pal Mitchell Schnurman takes retail guru Allen Questrom to task for his recent tirade against JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson. Despite 20,000 layoffs and $1 billion in losses during the CEO’s tenure, Schnurman says Questrom’s rant was untimely and unhelpful because, basically, there can be no turning back now as Johnson implements his “shops-within-a-shop” transformation of the Plano-based department store.
That’s a dubious proposition. Observers have been calling for Johnson’s head for months, and Questrom himself went on CNBC last August, saying that Penney’s customers don’t believe in Johnson’s grand scheme and that not testing the makeover first on a small scale was irresponsible. In the December Editor’s Note in D CEO, we also reported a conversation in which Questrom said
“… that Johnson’s ‘shop-within-a-shop’ concept is really nothing new. … The store’s customers, he said, have voted with their feet.”
More than anything, Questrom’s latest criticism is a case of one savvy retail expert simply pleading, “Enough is enough,” in the face of an outsized-ego trip (“What worked for me before will work again”) that’s decimating a major company’s revenue and stock price. Maybe a 2×4 in the face would have been preferable?