Remaking J.C. Penney Without Coupons

Former Apple Store chief Ron Johnson is remaking the venerable retailer. It’s not going well
After building up Apple and Target, has Johnson met his match? Photograph by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Here’s a riddle: How do bargain hunters know they’re getting a bargain if there’s no hunt? The answer is, they don’t. That’s just one of the lessons Ron Johnson has learned in his six months as chief executive officer of J. C. Penney. Johnson developed Target’s “cheap chic” persona before moving to Apple, where he created the world’s most profitable stores. Now he’s trying something really hard. He wants to wean Penney’s middle-market customers from a steady diet of coupons and almost constant discounting. So far, they’re not buying. “The transition has been tougher than we anticipated,” Johnson said during a May 15 presentation to investors.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.