If nothing else, Plano-based J.C. Penney’s radical new strategies under CEO Ron Johnson have gotten the company a lot of press this year. Â (Even aside from all the news about layoffs and the recent dismissal of the company’s shiny new marketing chief.) Â We noted in January the plans by Johnson, who previously helped Apple launch its distinctive retail shops, to bring some of the “genius bar” sensibility to Penney’s store layouts.
The Dallas Morning News got a “sneak peek” at a prototype of the new design (in an undisclosed Dallas location):
Counters with stools – Apple store mainstays that started with the genius bar Johnson created a decade ago in his former job – are a common feature in the street mockup.
Checkout counters with cash registers are replaced by seating areas with sofas or long tables with built-in iPads and stools where shoppers can sit and access the Internet. At the end of the mocked-up street is a snack bar with a seating area and small tables.
The new ambiance is designed “to encourage people to come and stay a while,” Johnson said.
In the new store layout, Penney employees carry mobile checkouts, “right here,” Johnson said while holding up the palm of his hand. The new layout includes multipurpose bars where shoppers can pay with cash, return items, have something gift wrapped or pick up an online order.
The design is supposed to “inspire and engage shoppers and allow them to relax, refresh and gather,” Johnson said. “People shop in twos: a mother and daughter, a husband and wife, girlfriends. One of them can still be close by but get a cup of coffee or sit down and check email.”
“Our customers have never had a shopping experience like this,” he said while touring the prototype. “It’s all about a better store environment filled with respect for the customer.”
From my perspective, this is overkill. All I require is a plush, comfortable husband chair, and I’m set.