Connect with us

Blogs & Perspectives

Blog: A Penney for Your Thoughts

Will JCPenney’s dynamic duo bring new life to department stores?



When you think of the most successful retailers of the last decade, Target and Apple surely come to mind. JCPenney? Probably not.

Well, that may all soon change. In 2011, a year in which our industry has gingerly climbed its way out of a recession and back into “Go!” mode, the department store retailer is sending out shock waves with some surprising executive appointments.

First, it was the announcement this summer that the Plano, Texas-based company hired Apple senior vp Ron Johnson as its new ceo (effective November 1). A few months later, we got the news that Michael Francis, Target’s chief merchandising officer, was coming aboard as president. Former Target and Apple masterminds at JCPenney! In the retail world, can you ask for better mojo?

Johnson was the driving force behind Apple’s successful foray into retail. Francis’ 25-year career started at Marshall Field’s State Street flagship before taking him to the discount chain where he’s credited with amplifying the retailer’s fun, hip image.

Penney’s new executive team has many analysts speculating on its future. Will it be reborn as a hip department store targeting upscale shoppers or will it attempt to become a destination for discount shopping? Publicly, Penney’s Johnson said, “[Francis’] ability to innovate and his deep understanding of the industry will be invaluable as we set out to transform JCPenney into America’s favorite store.”

That leaves a lot of room for interpretation. But the buzz words associated with both these men’s careers – fun, hip, experiential, strong brand stories – haven’t applied to JCPenney in a while. My hope is that the new duo gives a shot in the arm to the lagging department store sector. Imagine a reinvented Penney’s ­setting off a new direction of change throughout the entire retail landscape that takes it from ho-hum to wowza – much like Target and Apple did back in the day.


It almost seems too big a wish. And yet, here’s hoping that the Johnson/Francis team put Penney’s – and department stores in general – on the retail map again.



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

Promoted Headlines





Most Popular