Will Ron Johnson ‘Enjoy’ his comeback?

Discussion
May 08, 2015

At one point Ron Johnson was thought to be a retail virtuoso, in part because of his use of the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. Later he became the poster child for what not to do while leading a company during a disastrous stint as CEO at J.C. Penney. Now, Mr. Johnson is back with a new retail concept. Will he reclaim his genius status or become the retail equivalent of Don Quixote facing down windmills?

Mr. Johnson’s latest venture is an e-commerce site called Enjoy. A San Jose Mercury News headline calls it "a genius bar on wheels." Consumers purchase from a selection of consumer electronics on the site and have them hand delivered by an expert who sets the products up and teaches the purchaser how to use them at no additional cost.

Mr. Johnson referred to Enjoy as "a personal commerce platform" in an interview with CNBC earlier this week.

"Our product is a person, and now for the same price you buy in a store, you can order a product from Enjoy and someone will hand deliver and spend up to an hour getting you up and running," he said. "So it’s meant for this new world we live in, which is going mobile, which involves a need for help."

[Image: Enjoy]

Currently, Enjoy (www.goenjoy.com) has about 60 items available for purchase, including drones, electric bicycles and skateboards, Windows laptops, Xbox One consoles and Sonos speaker systems. On May 19, the site will also offer AT&T smartphones for delivery. The service is currently available in the San Francisco Bay area and will launch in New York City next week.

While there is no current deal in place to work with Apple, Mr. Johnson’s comment of "stay tuned" in the CNBC interview suggests that news on that front is forthcoming.

Enjoy will also help customers address issues with tech purchases made elsewhere. For $99, consumers can book a visit — typically an hour — with an "Expert" to troubleshoot a problem or for a quick training session.

What do you think of Ron Johnson’s idea of Enjoy as a personal commerce platform? Will Enjoy be successful?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Smart move on Ron Johnson’s part to build this out on other people’s money. Limited assortment of goods with a limited number of cities is going to make it difficult for this one to compete against Best Buy’s Geek Squad."
"As they say in rock and roll: it’s not that hard to launch a nostalgia tour when you were a one-hit wonder, but you’re more likely to sell out the Holiday Inn in Omaha than Wembley Stadium."
"The underlying idea of simplifying the use/consumption of a tech category purchase in one’s own setting is sound. How he executes on the service front with his "experts" will be critical to the concept’s success as well as having sufficient margin in the products to remain viable."

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13 Comments on "Will Ron Johnson ‘Enjoy’ his comeback?"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

If Mr. Johnson takes it slowly (which he failed to do at JCP), there is no reason why Enjoy can’t succeed. It’s being targeted at a tech customer without the time or skill to get these products up and running, at a competitive price. (I checked the Surface Pro and Sonos prices vs. Best Buy and Amazon.) By offering a value-added service for the same price, Enjoy has a chance to work.

David Livingston
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

If he can deliver on what he says it will be successful. I get this kind of service now as do a lot of us. My concern is the quality of the tech support. No one likes it when we know more than the tech support they send over.

I would not second guess Ron’s failures. He took on a job of steering the Titanic. Doesn’t matter who was in charge, it was going to turn out badly. You have to admire people who take on jobs where you know the best case scenario is losing.

Roger Saunders
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Smart move on Ron Johnson’s part to build this out on other people’s money.

Limited assortment of goods with a limited number of cities is going to make it difficult for this one to compete against Best Buy’s Geek Squad. In addition, in these large cities, New York and San Francisco, scalable promotion is costly, as is travel time.

This one has as challenging a hill to push up as the recovery that JCP was left with after the change over that Johnson engineered a couple of years ago.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
6 years 6 months ago
As they say in rock and roll: it’s not that hard to launch a nostalgia tour when you were a one-hit wonder, but you’re more likely to sell out the Holiday Inn in Omaha than Wembley Stadium. First of all, Mr. Johnson’s expertise is in physical stores, albeit recently physical stores more or less backed up by some kind of an e-commerce element. That said, let’s look at the value proposition. No doubt he has identified a niche market, and that may be the problem. Baffled Boomers trying to decode the secrets of their mobile phones can already get tutorials at their mobile provider. Apple customers can go to the Genius Bar. Best Buy has the Geek Squad and on and on. What’s different here? Ah yes, the fact that a total stranger armed in full nerd armor will be coming into your home and walking you through your electronics. And that will work because people always want to spend an hour with a total stranger, huddled over an appliance with few or no witnesses.… Read more »
Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
6 years 6 months ago

The underlying idea of simplifying the use/consumption of a tech category purchase in one’s own setting is sound. How he executes on the service front with his “experts” will be critical to the concept’s success as well as having sufficient margin in the products to remain viable.

Is it really a “personal commerce platform?” I don’t think so, but definitely more like the aforementioned “Genius Bar on wheels.” Success will come by truly delivering on the promise of simplifying the immediate use of today’s gadgets in one’s home (or office).

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 6 months ago
There is a HUGE difference between trying to turn around a battered battleship and the opportunity to create your own speedboat. Entirely different situations, and Ron Johnson’s talents are aligned with the later. The new “P” for today’s consumer is most definitely personalization! Who wouldn’t want to have their own Genius visit them and set everything up and teach them how to use it? With today’s complicated devices that now must all connect, it’s a home run waiting to happen. Just one thing — how does Ron’s business model work and support all of this? According to Ron: “Our product is a person, and now for the same price you buy in a store.” OK, maybe they can charge the same Genius hour rates, but who pays for the extra expense of travel and costs associated with delivering and unpacking products? Is there a substantial infrastructure somewhere? And what about quality control, not to mention liability issues of services in-home? Retailers are struggling to be profitable, even if they offer “geeks and tech benches.” The one… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
6 years 6 months ago
How to deliver training or peace-of-mind after the purchase and during the adoption phase of technology represents know-how. If the future consists of getting-over-the-hump on the transformation of everything – especially home automation, then being the person who completes the last mile is more than just transactional, it’s a brand. It’s true that folks are trying to make this plug and play, but at what point does it get too complex? As far as success – the ingredient that makes things successful is obsessive passion and love of a thing or outcome – this creates zealots. He’s a very sincere person and folks love to work for him. He may be rich, but he’s still humble, especially after the J.C. Penney experience. So my answer is: only if this idea has a future pivot that leverages the customer relationships he creates during the first phase of Enjoy’s life. One thing he could do is morph into a new product media platform — a portal for shows that cover new product releases and older favorites. He could… Read more »
Tony Orlando
Guest
6 years 6 months ago
I give him credit for constantly trying to be relevant, but this may be a tough sell as somehow, someway, there needs to be a profit somewhere. In this business it is thinner margins than ever before. Super high-end stuff, if handled properly, I believe could be a nice niche, but these smart TVs my wife and kids can set up in 20 minutes without all the hassle. Going after the total home stereo business with a guarantee of great service could be a winner and those with very high incomes would welcome this service, as many home stereo stores are no longer in business. You can get free lessons on YouTube on how to program your cell phone, and unless consumers are willing to pay more for their phones, how can this venture make money? I get a new phone every two years for free, with free install and help, so why would anyone pay big bucks for a smartphone to be delivered and set up when the local phone store or online tutorials… Read more »
Dimitris Tsioutsias
Guest
Dimitris Tsioutsias
6 years 6 months ago

This is as niche a play as they come. The demand is there for “white glove” service (as anyone who has hired a Home Theater installation vendor can attest to) but I’m not sure what the margins are for the product he’s selling and beyond that how scalable this model is. Sounds more like a move to attract a Best Buy-like interest around someone buying his “patented” idea.

Brian Kelly
Guest
6 years 6 months ago
Sorry folks. This guy makes my stomach hurt. For what he did to J.C. Penney he should be in prison. Lose $7 billion in sales? How many folks were harmed? Collude with Martha to screw Macy’s? He is a bonafide bum. Genius of the Apple Store. C’mon, Apple was entrenched as America’s darling brand. Jobs was as close to wizard, if not messiah, as anyone gets. Jobs envisioned mobility unlike anyone else. Johnson put iPods, iPhones and Macs on tables and sold them. Genius?  Apple Stores are like awesome fishing tackle stores. Great ones have a few Geniuses behind the reel case. Consultative selling in a one-category store with high end, high margin goods with clueless customers. In his own words, he struggled to get Michael Graves on the shelf. He was a home merchant. He didn’t create “Tar-zhay.” So the oracle speaks and all await the word … To me, more like false prophet. Sell tech products and send along service to install in-home. In Chicago, that’s Abt Electronics. Roll it out nationally? OK… Read more »
Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Ron Johnson has never been short of big ideas that sound great in the perfect world. The problem is that we don’t live in a perfect world. This means attention to details like market acceptability and sculpting a plan to fit a market segment in a unique fashion is a must for smooth transition for a current client base.

Putting a great idea to work in a corporate environment that doesn’t understand the chances it holds for the future or where there is insufficient talent to properly deploy and manage the change is where he also failed in the past. Ron is very good at making outstanding ideas into impossible jobs as a CEO. He should have remained at key support player level for the rest of his career. His insight and ideas would have been taught as positives instead of being pointed to as lost opportunities.

Robert Heiblim
Guest
Robert Heiblim
6 years 6 months ago

This is one of the ideas that keeps appearing. In some ways it is not new as installation and delivery services in some form or another have existed in the CE industry for some time. That said, the challenges will center around how to match retail pricing while also offering these services. It will take scale to work and a good deal of management of the actual staff doing the work. No easy task as you could ask Best Buy, or Sears or now Amazon. However, the need for this at a consumer level is clear. It will be very interesting to see how this works out.

vic gallese
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

First of all, personal commerce platform implies something more to me than what has been described. So I think there IS more to come.

I certainly hope so, because I see a limited market in the concierge service described. Not for Millennials, for sure!

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Braintrust
"Smart move on Ron Johnson’s part to build this out on other people’s money. Limited assortment of goods with a limited number of cities is going to make it difficult for this one to compete against Best Buy’s Geek Squad."
"As they say in rock and roll: it’s not that hard to launch a nostalgia tour when you were a one-hit wonder, but you’re more likely to sell out the Holiday Inn in Omaha than Wembley Stadium."
"The underlying idea of simplifying the use/consumption of a tech category purchase in one’s own setting is sound. How he executes on the service front with his "experts" will be critical to the concept’s success as well as having sufficient margin in the products to remain viable."

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