Ron Johnson on “What I learned building the Apple Store”

Apple’s former retail chief Ron Johnson recently left the Cupertino company to become CEO of JC Penney. While he builds his team (the Wall Street Journal suggests he’s recruiting former Apple colleagues), he’s written a guest post for The Harvard Business Review entitled, “What I Learned Building the Apple Store.” My favorite bit is right up front.

“When I announced that I was leaving Apple to take the reins as CEO of J.C. Penney this month, the business press (and lots of others) began speculating about whether I could replicate the Apple Store’s success in such a dramatically different retail setting. One of the most common comments I heard was that the Apple Store succeeded because it carried Apple products and catered to the brand’s famously passionate customers. Well, yes, Apple products do pull people into stores. But you don’t need to stock iPads to create an irresistible retail environment. You have to create a store that’s more than a store to people.”

I’ve often been with a group of people who visited an Apple Store just to visit it. No one intended to buy anything. Instead, we just wanted to walk around, talk with the employees and play with the toys. It’s the same reason my kids want to visit the Disney Store [1. Coincidentally, Steve Jobs himself reportedly had a hand in the Disney Store’s recent re-invention.]. Not just because they hope to get something (though they do), but because it’s an appealing place to be.