Since Ron Johnson, the retail genius from Apple, took over as c.e.o. of Penney's, he's been making significant changes. Penny's lowered all their prices 40%, and changed to an "everyday low pricing" policy. They also ended the practice of having sales three times every week, after Johnson learned that customers weren't coming back three times a week. Now we have to see what happens. These changes are costly.
Johnson wants to make J.C.Penney a place where people want to gather. He's turning valuable first-floor selling space into an open area where people can relax and socialize. (In Chicago, merchant Marshall Field used to tell his staff to "give the lady what she wants". Now Johnson's doing it.)
To find out what's going on back at Apple these days, I stopped in at the beautiful new store in Berkeley. I had told them on the phone my "Time Capsule" wasn't working, and they said just bring it in and they'd check it out. They said it would only take 20 seconds. When I got there, they confirmed it would only take 20 seconds, but that those 20 seconds were by appointment only. This was Friday around noon. The next appointment was available Sunday at 12:15. I came back; the said my "Time Machine" was fried. I've got to hand it to Apple, though. They were very courteous during the entire 20 seconds. Ron Johnson's common sense is needed back at the Genius Bar.
I don't live that close to a J.C. Penney's store, but I think I'll check one out soon. What they're doing is gutsy. I don't see Macy's lowering prices across the board, and Sears isn't trying very hard, either. Target's eyes are fixed on Walmart. I wish more merchants kept their eyes on customers, but that seems too much to ask.
What Ron Johnson is doing is pretty dramatic. Maybe not as dramatic as Angelina's right thigh, but still, maybe they should give him an Oscar.