Ron Johnson, the former Senior Vice President for retail at Apple who just left to run JC Penney this month, worked alongside Steve Jobs to build the Apple Store to obvious success while many brick-and-mortar stores are struggling due to the growth of e-commerce. He was recently interviewed for the December 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review and also published a guest post on the magazine's blog, providing insight into what he thinks is the strategy that was responsible for the rise of the Apple Store. Johnson believes his approach can be applied to any retail store if they focus on adding value to the customer experience rather than moving products.

In one example Johnson gives, each Apple Store allows you to test drive any product and load it with your own apps and content, all while an employee guides you through the process — regardless of whether you plan to make a purchase. Johnson adds that he took away commission incentives from the sales associate position so employees would focus on helping customers find the right product — "even if it's not an Apple product." It should be interesting to see if he can put his money where his mouth is after taking over as the new CEO of JC Penney. Check out more insight and the full interview at the Harvard Business Review.