Apple’s iconic store layout would have looked completely different if it weren’t for a tense interaction between former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and then-retail SVP Ron Johnson.
Johnson was Apple’s retail chief in the early 2000s, and he learned the lengths that Jobs would go to get something right just before the company opened its first brick-and-mortar store. Inc. Magazine shared his story.
It was spring 2001 and Apple was prepping to open its first retail store. Johnson and Jobs were on their way to a weekly planning meeting, when Johnson spoke up about something that had been bothering him. Apple had been setting up its store like any other: organised around the different products that it would be selling.
“But if Apple’s going to organise around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organised around music and movies and things you do,” he told Jobs.
“Do you know how big a change that is?” he recalls Jobs saying. “I don’t have time to redesign the store.”
It seemed like that was that, but 10 minutes later when the pair walked into the meeting, Jobs immediately spoke up.
“Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong,” Jobs said. “And he’s right, so I’m going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store.”
Even though it would take longer to open the store because of the redesign, Jobs knew that it was worth taking the extra time to get it right.
“It’s not about speed to market,” Johnson says. “It’s really about doing your level best.”
The new layout ended up being a smashing success: Apple’s stores made more than a billion dollars in annual sales within two years and now make more revenue per square foot than any other U.S. retailer, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
After leaving Apple, though, Johnson fell from grace thanks to a short-lived, tumultuous stint as the CEO of JCPenny. Since JCPenney ousted Johnson in 2013, he’s been working on a retail startup called Enjoy. He may be coming back in a big way though, thanks to a $US16 million investment he just led in e-commerce startup Nasty Gal.
He’s joining the company’s board of directors and will help it expand its brick-and-mortar presence.
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