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Apple Store savant aims to revitalize JC Penney

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The man responsible for creating Apple’s wildly successful line of minimalist retail stores has a new challenge: Revamp JC Penney. Ron Johnson, who played an integral role in developing the bright, glass-fronted Apple Store locations that draw crowds around the world, is now the chief executive of the 109-year-old department store giant, reports Bloomberg. And it’s now his job to keep the third-largest retailer in the US from falling through the stress cracks of the recent economic recession.

“It’s our job to rethink everything,” Johnson said during an interview. “Retailing’s always been about creativity, it’s about creating exciting new ways for people to shop, new products for people to purchase, new ways to do things.”

This doesn’t mean that your local JC Penney will be outfitted with massive glass front walls, stark white interiors and Genius Bars. But it’s assured some of Johnson’s Apple magic will head Penney’s way, especially considering Apple’s retail stores made 30 times that of JC Penney last year, when compared on square-foot-to-square-foot basis.

Johnson’s predecessor, Mike Ullman, successfully fended off the worst effects of the sputtering economy with proactive steps, like adding makeup giant Sephora to the retailer’s list of brands, and improving profitability by quickly implementing cost-cutting measures. Ullman will remain with JC Penny as its executive chairman.

“I felt from the beginning that he was one of the one or two people who could really transform this company from the level we envisioned, and he just wasn’t ready at that time,” said Ullman in a statement.

The success of Apple’s retail stores, which recently celebrated 10 years of operation, has helped Apple’s profits soar. In 2010 alone, Apple Stores saw more than 230 million visitors across all locations worldwide. And the company’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is photographed more often by tourists than any other location in New York City.

Will Johnson be able to create JC Penney fans that wait in line for hours for the doors to open? Not likely. But expect your local JC Penney location to have a few changes around the corner.

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