JC Penney names Apple retail exec as new CEO

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 11:05am
ANNE D'INNOCENZIO - AP Retail Writer - Associated Press

J.C. Penney Co., the department store chain, has named Ron Johnson, who pioneered Apple Inc.'s retail stores, its next CEO. He will succeed Myron Ullman III in November, the retailer said Tuesday.

During his 11 years at Apple, Johnson led Apple's retail stores and has been credited with developing the popular Genius Bar, where customers can get hands-on technical support for their Mac, iPad or other devices.

Johnson, 52, will report to Ullman, who will become executive chairman. Johnson will also join J.C. Penney's board of directors in August.

Ullman has been CEO and chairman since December 2004.

Apple's retail chain has grown to 300 stores in the U.S. and abroad and has become the gold standard for other retailers looking to make their stores modern and exciting. Johnson joined Apple after 15 years at Target Corp., where he was a merchandising executive who led the team that brought designer Michael Graves' products to the "cheap chic" retailer.

Penney's shares rose $4.04, or 13.4 percent, to $34.15 after the announcement.

Ullman turns 65 in November. Under his stewardship, Penney has moved from offering mainly store brands to filling its floors with trendy Sephora cosmetics shops and affordable lines like Cindy Crawford Style. Last year, it became the only U.S. retailer to sell Liz Claiborne and Claiborne women's wear. It's also the only department store selling MNG by Mango, a European clothing chain.

Penney, which generated revenue of $17.7 billion in its latest fiscal year, has also created a unit devoted to finding new revenue streams. As part of this initiative, the company opened the first 10 Foundry Big & Tall Supply co. stores, six in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and four in Kansas City.

Johnson's appointment is a sign that J.C. Penney is positioning itself for a new era in which shoppers increasingly use mobile phones to check prices or shop.

In clothing, J.C. Penney has been squeezed by competition from Macy's on the high end and Target and H&M on the cheaper end. Its competitors are also expanding exclusive items to make them stand out.

Johnson brings expertise in both "soft goods" like clothing and "hard goods" like gadgets, said Gilbert Harrison, CEO of Financo, an investment banking boutique that specializes in retailing.


AP Business Writer Rachel Beck in New York contributed to this report.


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