When Ron Johnson took over as CEO of J.C. Penney 17 months ago, he unveiled some ambitious plans to get the iconic brand back on track. The fact that Johnson is now ex-CEO paints a picture of how well his changes went over. Still, while Johnson may have had some missteps along the way, I don’t believe his tenure was as bad as many are making it out to be. In this edition of Retail Rap, I take a broad look at Johnson’s efforts, from the bad to the good and where J.C. Penney can go from here as they continue to try to get generate traction for their brand.
Johnson’s critics have comprehensively chronicled his mistakes, but I genuinely feel like many (or even most) of the post-mortems I’ve read paint the story as a little too black and white. While I’ve criticized his efforts myself, the story of JC Penney over the last year and a half is a little more nuanced than many have made it out to be. Johnson had big goals during his 17-month stint as CEO, and while he was not wholly successful, he did make some progress. When we think about where JC Penney goes from here, I do think that a useful and possibly instructive first step is too look a little closer at that mixed track record: to break down what went wrong, but also to appreciate what went right.
Check out the full article from my recurring column, Retail Rap, at Chain Store Age.