The Weekly: JCPenney’s Rebirth

Coming from Apple, a company with one of the world’s hippest brands, Ron Johnson sure seems to like squares.  The former Apple executive, hired away from Target by Steve Jobs to launch the company’s global network of Apple Stores, became CEO of JCPenney in November 2011. Since Johnson took over at the beleaguered chain, he’s unveiled a new, square logo, “Fair and Square” pricing, reintroduced the concept of “square deals”, stood, “squarely” behind spokeswoman Ellen Degeneres and…squarely disappointed investors and analysts following his first quarterly earnings after launching a giant initiative to turn the company around.
That Mr. Johnson would go anywhere, leaving behind a job running a retail chain with higher average revenue per square foot than Tiffany’s or Louis Vuitton, was surprising enough. That he’d leave Apple for a department store, a retail concept believed by many to be in its death throes, made it even more surprising.

Despite what outsiders thought, Johnson was quite serious when he said he believed in JCPenney’s future: so serious that, rather than accepting a stock grant as part of his compensation package, he invested $50 million of his personal wealth in the company’s stock at its closing price on the day he took over as CEO.

Within a few months, Johnson unveiled the company’s new strategy and the stock soared on the news, up nearly 50% since the day he began with the company.  JCP intended to take an extremely different position from its competitors, as well as from the strategies it had employed in the past.

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