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J.C. Penney’s Johnson Lands Target’s Chief Marketing Officer

J.C. Penney Co. hired away Target Corp.’s chief marketing officer as incoming Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson builds a team to revamp the third-largest U.S. department-store chain.

Michael Francis, 48, was named president and will be in charge of merchandising, marketing and product development, Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney said today in a statement. Target earlier today announced the departure of Francis, who had been at the company since 1990 and was leading its expansion into Canada.

Johnson, who left Apple Inc. in June after building its retail unit, will become CEO on Nov. 1 and take charge of a chain that had three straight annual sales declines before a gain of 1.2 percent in its fiscal 2011. Francis’s hiring suggests Johnson may end J.C. Penney’s pursuit of upscale shoppers and focus on thriving as a mall-based discounter, said Bernard Sosnick, an analyst at Gilford Securities.

“That seems to be a much more effective approach than what they’ve been doing,” Sosnick, who’s based in Melville, New York, said today in a phone interview. He has a “buy” rating on J.C. Penney and a “hold” rating on Target.

Francis’s hiring is effective tomorrow.

J.C. Penney fell 66 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $26.12 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading after rising as much as 2.1 percent following the statement on Francis joining the company. Target declined $1.24, or 2.5 percent, to $47.80.

Francis and Johnson worked together at Target, where Johnson led the Minneapolis-based retailer’s foray into home design before joining Cupertino, California-based Apple in 2000.

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