Ron Johnson unboxes e-commerce with

May 8, 2015 03:27 PM

As consumers have shifted more of their spending online, store retailing consultants have repeatedly and routinely expounded that stores need to distinguish themselves beyond the products they sell by providing to consumers services and elevated shopping experiences—things that an e-retailer can’t sell, stick in a box and deliver to consumers’ doors.

Ron Johnson’s e-commerce startup, however, takes a swing at doing just that. launched this week in the San Francisco Bay area and makes its New York debut next week. The site sells higher-end consumer electronics that require setup or have a bit of learning curve attached to them—like how to fly a drone—and has product experts deliver products and provide training on how to use them, at no additional charge.

Johnson, the both lauded and much-maligned ex-executive of Apple Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc., says in a letter on that the point of the company is to “reinvent the way people buy and experience the products that matter most to them.”

Johnson’s track record at reinventing how people shop has been mixed. He was the executive in charge of Apple’s retail store push and is credited with coming up with the Genius Bar, where Apple owners with sick computers, iPhones and iPads go for relief. Apple stores today generate the highest revenue per square foot of any retailer in the United States, clocking in at $4,551, according to eMarketer Inc. data from 2014. He also headed up merchandising at Target as it grew in the 1990s, developing brands, like the Michael Graves line of home accessories, that helped make the mass-market chain a cool place to shop.

His big ideas about reinventing retail were not so well-received by J.C. Penney shoppers or investors. He resigned as CEO of the department store retailer in 2013 after less than two years as sales caved. In 2012, total sales declined 24.8% after Johnson radically changed Penney’s marketing strategy, including doing away with the regular sales that had been a Penney hallmark.

The product and service mix GoEnjoy offers isn’t entirely new to e-commerce, but it isn’t particularly common either. Multichannel sporting goods retailer Sport Chalet tied in a white-glove service element to e-commerce when it launched same-day delivery to some web shoppers in 2013. If a consumer had a new pair of skis delivered, the person who delivered them would help the shopper attach their existing boots to their new skis, for example. Dazadi Inc., No. 797 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide, has for many years offered in-home set up of items like pool tables and arcade games.

While the first part of a transaction—shopping, placing the order and paying—happen online at, Johnson’s comments about the startup focus on the human interaction element. He describes GoEnjoy as “personal commerce,” not e-commerce. “Stores offer choice, e-commerce offers convenience, and the hallmark of Personal Commerce is an unmatched personal experience,” he says. also offers consults with its experts for $99 an hour for products consumers already own. Consumers, whether buying something new or seeking a consult, book a specific time for the GoEnjoy expert to show up, and the retailer says the expert can meet with the consumer outside of her home, such as at a coffee shop.  

The price for goods sold on, as they appear today, are in line with other online retailers. A Sony Xbox One video game console is $349 on the site, a GoPro Hero4 Silver video recorder is $399. The prices are about a dollar less than current prices at 




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