Apple Should Think About Ron Johnson

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Former J.C. Penney ( JCP) CEO Ron Johnson is looking for work after having been ousted at the retailer due to poor performance, horrendous sales figures, a slumping stock price, and a consumer that may or may not come back. What better place to return to glory than the place that made him famous: Apple ( AAPL).

Johnson was relieved of his duties Monday evening, as shares slumped some 50% at J.C. Penney since he took over. Johnson's plan was to turn the Plano, Texas-based retailer into a mall-within-a-mall concept, taking unused square footage and setting up specialty shops, breaking the traditional department store model.

This was a grand and ambitious plan from the start. Johnson, however, confused, and in some cases, alienated, J.C. Penney's core customer by taking away coupon's and muddling the company's message. The company's most recent earnings report demonstrates that, with revenue declining 30% year over year. The share price year-to-date says even more, with the stock declining 19.5%, compared to a near 10% gain in the S&P 500.

If Apple Hires Ron Johnson, I'll Buy a PC

Despite concerns about his plan and a seemingly never ending falling share price, Johnson is still an intelligent retailer, having helped design the Apple Stores you see today, and shaping Target ( TGT) before that. Apple CEO Tim Cook is looking for a new head of Apple Retail, now that John Browett has been relieved of his duties. Cook admitted that Browett was a mistake, and since October he has been actively looking for a candidate to lead Apple's retail stores.

Johnson worked with then-CEO Steve Jobs to create Apple's stores, which Cook has said in the past is the key to Apple's success. Jobs is no longer there, and the shine is off Johnson, so this would be a different situation than building from the ground up. An appointment of Johnson by Cook could even become a lightning rod for Apple, which has received its fair share of criticism in recent months. From concerns over product innovation, to a slumping stock price (sound familiar J.C. Penney investors?), Apple has been left in the dust in the minds of certain investors.

There has even been some criticism from Apple retail employees that Johnson coming back to Apple wouldn't be the right answer. There are concerns that Johnson is too old, and not the young, hip answer Apple needs.

This message that Johnson shouldn't be brought back to Apple misses the forest for the trees. In every crisis, there is an opportunity. Johnson's crisis at J.C. Penney could be his opportunity to re-emerge at Apple, allowing the tech titan to continue in its battle with Samsung, Google ( GOOG) and others. Johnson, despite his age, is still full of fresh ideas. The idea of turning J.C. Penney into a mall was something that had never been tried before, and has been lauded publicly. Former J.C. Penney CEO Allen Questrom was quoted recently as saying the new shops "are very creative, very well done," but concerns over whether consumers wanted the shops were another story.

New ideas don't happen often in retail, and Johnson is someone that has had a track record of new ideas in a stodgy industry. Critics shouldn't be so quick to dismiss a Johnson return to Apple just yet. At Apple, he would be out of the spotlight, and have ample ammunition (namely Apple's incredibly strong balance sheet) to put his vision to work.

Apple Stores are still the most profitable retail operations per square footage in the world, surpassing even Tiffany ( TIF). Johnson is responsible for a large part of that. Apple was built on innovation, and if Johnson still has any left in him Apple would be wise to at least look his way.

Window shopping never hurt anyone's wallets.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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