Last week, we asked Bill Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, if he thought customers shopping at a JCPenney store in the future will have an experience reminiscent of going into an Apple store. “I think the answer is ‘yes.’ What I mean by that is not that it’s going to be a beautiful glass box on Fifth Avenue. Although it will look a lot nicer than it does now,” Ackman said at the Harbor Investment Conference in Manhattan.
Ackman, whose hedge fund owns a 26% stake in the retailer, said this change will be because of Ron Johnson, who became JCPenney’s CEO in November 2011.
“The answer is the department store hasn’t changed in 25 years. This man will completely change it and it’s going to be exciting. You’re going to want to go there.”
Prior to joining JCPenney, Johnson worked at Apple as the senior vice president of retail for 11 years where he was in charge of the technology giant’s retail strategy. In this role, he led Apple, which had zero stores, to opening up over 300 Apple stores globally. Before that, he spent 15 years at Target as a merchandising executive.
“He completely gets customer service,” Ackman explained.
Ackman said Johnson is going to re-do the JCPenney stores from having racks and racks of clothing by installing a bunch boutiques, or “shops,” staffed with personnel who know how to sell that particular product.
“It will be a very interesting experience. You’re going to have the customer experience. You’re going to have technology — think of an Apple store. You’re going to have a really curated product.”
The hedge fund manager said Johnson’s plan is to start opening these boutiques beginning in August at a rate of about 2-3 a month.
“It’s going to take a while for you to have the Apple store experience, but it’s going to get there,” he added.
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