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CNBC reports that Michael Francis, the former Target executive who was brought in to JC Penney by CEO Ron Johnson to help reinvent the company's marketing and merchandising operations, is leaving the company after just nine months. His responsibilities will be absorbed by Johnson, the former Apple Store exec who has promised to transform the moribund JC Penney's into something more compelling and profitable.

According to the story, "Little detail was given about the departure of Mr. Francis. However, based on the recent marketing campaign which has sent confused customers in to the arms of competitors, Ron Johnson may have felt the need to clear the decks."

Advertising Age writes that "JC Penney's marketing has been generally well received, from a creative standpoint, though there have been issues with the messaging. Many consumers have been confused about the retailer's pricing strategy, leading to a series of marketing adjustments. New ads have been running explaining the strategy, while the more straightforward word 'sale' has been substituted for 'month-long value'."
KC's View:
I really want Johnson to succeed. In part, I guess, because somehow I have an emotional investment in seeing Apple alums do well when they go to other companies. (Not sure why, but I do.) And, in part, because his plans for JC Penney seem audacious, and I like audacity.

But it may be that in the current competitive and economic environment, it is near impossible to pull off the kind of dramatic turnaround that he's planning. I hope not. But this may be the case, and this story may be the beginning of the unraveling. If so, I have no idea what Penney's next options might be.