Fancy gadgets, fancy service: Enjoy arrives in LA

The e-commerce startup headed by a former Apple exec comes to its first new market in nearly a year and plans to keep expanding.

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Enjoy is eyeing Chicago next.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Ron Johnson is best known for developing the look of Apple's iconic stores as its head of retail operations, then for nearly ruining J.C. Penney as its short-lived CEO.

You can be excused for not knowing Johnson for his attempt at a third act, this time as the founder and CEO of e-commerce electronics retailer Enjoy, which hand-delivers and helps set up devices for customers. He launched the startup in May, but its services so far have been available in just two markets: San Francisco and New York City.

After testing these locations for nearly a year, Johnson said that Enjoy is now ready to start expanding to more places. The company, which has 150 employees, started serving the Los Angeles market on Monday and plans to come to Chicago by May. The Menlo Park, California-based company also on Monday added American Express to its list of about two dozen partners, allowing AmEx customers to use Enjoy delivery as part of its membership rewards program.

"I think you'll see us in many more," Johnson said in an interview about plans to expand to additional cities this year.

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Ron Johnson, center, at Enjoy's New York office.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Enjoy sells high-end tech products like Sonos speakers, GoPro cameras and Apple iPads. The twist is that after you buy a new gadget, it's hand-delivered for free by an Enjoy expert who spends an hour setting up and offering tips and instructions on how to use the device.

Despite these additional services, Johnson said, Enjoy products don't generally cost more than the same items from rival retailers like Best Buy or Amazon. That's because Enjoy makes up for the added cost by not having stores and by keeping a lean inventory, he said. Partners, including American Express and AT&T, offer Enjoy's service for free to customers but pay Enjoy each time their customers use the startup.

Johnson is betting that as our devices and networks get more complicated, we'll need services like Enjoy more and more. The hand-delivery and set-up help is something he describes as "personal commerce," and Johnson sees it as a new way to shop. However, Enjoy will still need to stand out from Amazon, the biggest e-commerce company in the US, which provides some similar functions through its Home Services network. Besides Amazon, Enjoy is competing with scores of other retailers trying to build up their business online.

"We've got to do something really unique," Johnson said.

For now, while Enjoy expands to new locations and creates more partnerships, Johnson said he wants to "fly under the radar as long as we can" to avoid awakening bigger players to his concept of personal commerce.

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