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Ex-Apple exec fulfills dream, becomes JCPenney CEO

BY Mike Troy

PLANO, Texas — Things just got a whole lot more interesting in the mid-tier department store space now that JCPenney has hired former Apple executive Ron Johnson to be its CEO. Johnson is a former Target merchandising executive who for the past 11 years oversaw the growth of Apple’s wildly successful and widely heralded retail operation.

In his new role at JCPenney, which he will assume on Nov. 1 when current CEO Mike Ullman relinquishes the position to become executive chairman, Johnson contends he is taking on a role that will allow him to pursue the single greatest opportunity in American retailing: reinventing the department store.

Johnson said he had always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, adding, “I have tremendous confidence in JCPenney’s future and look forward to working with Mike Ullman, the executive board and the company’s 150,000 associates to transform the way America shops.”

For the past 11 years, Johnson served as SVP retail at Apple where he led the company’s retail strategy from inception to more than 300 locations worldwide. While the Apple retail network isn’t large, this is one situation where size doesn’t matter, as Apple stores’ approach to customer service and their operating model are widely praised.

Prior to Apple, Johnson spent 15 years at Target, last serving as VP merchandising. During his tenure at Target, he had responsibility for such categories as men’s apparel, women’s apparel and accessories, children’s and home. According to JCPenney, Johnson is most noted for launching and leading the design initiative at Target, which began with the Michael Graves collection for home and included several other such key brands as Calphalon, Carr, Bodum and more.

He also has an MBA from Harvard Business School and his Bachelor of Arts in economics from Stanford.

Given his background, outgoing CEO Ullman’s comment that, “I am delighted that Ron is joining our board and the company,” seemed like a bit of an understatement.

“He is widely recognized and highly regarded in the retail industry for his creativity and innovation, his commitment to empowering employees to deliver an unparalleled customer experience, and to making stores exciting places where people love to shop,” Ullman said. “His tremendous accomplishments at Apple and Target speak to his great consumer merchandising, marketing and operational talent.”

JCPenney won’t be losing the services of Ullman when Johnson assumes his new position later this year. Ullman, who joined the company as chairman and CEO in late 2004 will remain on the board. He also serves as deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, sits on the board of Starbucks, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and is chairman of the board of Mercy Ships International.

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Leonard Green, CVC team up for BJ’s buyout bid

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — Leonard Green & Partners and CVC Capital Partners said Friday they are making a joint buyout bid worth an undisclosed amount for BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The two private equity firms revealed their plans in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday. The bid price was not disclosed.

In February, BJ’s announced it was exploring a sale. In March, Leonard Green already is the chain’s larger shareholder, with a 9.3% stake.

BJ’s spokeswoman Cathy Maloney said the company wouldn’t comment on its process of exploring strategic offerings until the process has ended, the Associated Press reported.

BJ’s operates more than 190 warehouse clubs in 15 states.

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Retailers, manufacturers should leverage value of social media

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Such blog posts as the one from extreme couponer and Walgreens fan Christie Hardcastle announcing the shipment of a Walgreens Infant Care Booklet mailer to American Baby magazine subscribers are important as research shows that social media increasingly is becoming an effective way to communicate with consumers.

(THE NEWS: Blogger announces release of Walgreens Infant Care Booklet. For the full story, click here.)

"This Home Mailer also came with coupons for Nursery Water, Earth’s Best Baby food and more! So be on the lookout," Hardcastle wrote on her Wild for Wags site. Hardcastle also mentioned that mailers, such as the Walgreens Infant Care Booklet from American Baby magazine, are "just another reason to take advantage of free magazine offers."

The reason this is important is because recent research conducted in May by VeraQuest on behalf of marketing/public relations firm Robin Leedy & Associates found that friends are just as effective as TV in terms of their ability to influence an over-the-counter or a health-and-beauty product purchase.

Factoring in such social networking sites as Facebook, as well as blog reviews and the impact of social media, makes it even more significant. The survey of more than 1,500 U.S. adults found that blog reviews ranked as sources of greater influence among younger women (14% of women ages 30 to 39 years versus 6% overall).

Underscoring this notion is a "Women on the Web" report released by comScore, a provider of digital marketing intelligence. According to the June 2010 report, more women than men are social networking when online (16.3% of women versus 11.7% of men), and more women than men are spending their time online on blogs (0.9% of women versus 0.8% of men).

"Women across the world are driving some of the most mainstream aspects of the Internet experience today — the social Web, e-commerce, flash shopping and consumption of user-generated content via YouTube. They have spawned a whole new genre of Internet games and have driven much of the blogging and photo-sharing activity. Once women connect, they engage; once they engage, they embrace; once they embrace, they drive. And that¹s the future," the comScore report stated.

Clearly, social media is tipping the scale, and retailers and manufacturers would be wise to take note of this fact.

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