Photograph: Mark Peterson
|BIG LOSER||JC Penney|
RON JOHNSON, YOU'RE NO STEVE JOBS
Ron Johnson thought he could be the Steve Jobs of department stores: he would give the people what he thought they needed, rather than what they wanted. JC Penney customers disagreed. After only 17 months on the job, the retailer ousted Johnson from his CEO position, following a dismal year that saw a billion-dollar loss, a 29% drop in sales and the stock lose half its value. Things got so bad, some critics are speculating the 111-year-old retailer could potentially shutter as a result of Johnson’s tenure. Johnson ditched regular sales, upended the store’s pricing scheme, stopped carrying certain brands and replaced them with others, and redesigned the stores. (He also tried to steal Martha Stewart away from Macy’s.) Johnson’s inability to understand the JC Penney brand is shocking, given his history of success at Apple and Target. Yet shoppers stayed away in droves, and JC Penney is now faced with an even bigger uphill battle for its survival than it faced before. In a move that makes Johnson not only exactly like Steve Jobs—but also the exact opposite of Steve Jobs—JC Penney’s board replaced him with Mike Ullman, its previous, longtime CEO, who was fired so the company could bring in someone to give the brand some spark. (Irony!) No doubt Ullman let out the tremendous evil-villain laugh he’d been holding in for the past year and a half after hanging up from the call.