The man who built Apple's amazing retail-store business, Ron Johnson, recently left Apple to become the CEO of struggling department-store company J.C. Penney. (See: HOWARD DAVIDOWITZ: Apple Will Be Fine Without Its Retailing God — And Nothing Will Save J.C. Penney)
This move raised eyebrows: Apple's super-high-end retail cathedrals bear little resemblance to the decidedly mass-market fare and designs of J.C. Penney stores.
But Ron Johnson saw it as a huge opportunity and promised to bring some of the Apple magic to J.C. Penney.
And now he appears to be making his first big move in that direction.
J.C. Penney has bought a 16.6% stake in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the media and brand-licensing company founded by the goddess of American home-making and style, Martha Stewart.
The ownership stake, which cost $39 million, is part of a 10-year agreement between the two companies. As part of the partnership, J.C. Penney will open Martha Stewart "mini-stores" within its J.C. Penney stores, which will presumably sell Martha Stewart-approved merchandise.
More important, for those wondering how Ron Johnson plans to bring the Apple magic to J.C. Penney, the Martha Stewart boutiques will feature the equivalent of Apple's "Genius Bars." In these, presumably, consultants schooled in Martha Stewart homemaking techniques will offer guidance to shoppers about how they, too, can upgrade their lives.
So if you're unhappy about the way your food tastes or your house looks, help is on the way.