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Former Apple retail boss Ron Johnson launches 'Enjoy' shopping site

The man behind Apple Store's success unwraps a site for buying high-end gadgets that includes house calls. His goal: "Reinvent the way people buy and enjoy technology."

Even if retail is hard, as Ron Johnson seems to be saying in this 2009 file photo, he's pushing on with his new shopping venture, Enjoy. Sarah Tew/CNET/2009 file photo

Former Apple retail executive and J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson has launched a new online gadget shopping site with an offline twist.

The new venture, called Enjoy, launched on Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. Enjoy calls itself a "personal commerce platform" that allows users to buy products online and then enlists the help of technology experts that set up the purchased product for customers at no charge.

"Enjoy Experts will hand deliver technology products to customers at a place and time of their choosing, and spend an hour helping them get up and running," the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Enjoy will also dispatch its experts to customers who already own products and want them set up. That service will cost $99.

At the center of the Enjoy shopping experience is selectivity. Rather than offer a massive e-commerce marketplace like Amazon, Enjoy focuses on a select few products, including the GoPro camcorder, Sonos all-in-one speakers, the DJI Phantom 3 drone, and even Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 and Xbox One. Despite the free set-up service, prices are in line with competing retailers.

After a customer buys one of those products, he or she will determine when they'd like to have the product delivered. At delivery, one of the Enjoy experts will set it up and show the user how it works. In the case of the GoPro, that training includes creating, editing, and sharing the user's first movie.

Johnson joined Apple in 2000 as senior vice president of retail operations and helped the company significantly grow its brick-and-mortar retail business. During his tenure, Johnson was credited with playing a central role in the shopping experience built into Apple stores and dramatically expanding the company's retail revenue.

J.C. Penney took notice of Johnson's success and in 2011, hiring him as its CEO. While he served as the store's chief executive, Johnson attempted to recreate the retail magic he cooked up at Apple by modifying J.C. Penney store designs and focusing on store experiences, rather than the sales that governed the company's strategy previously. At J.C. Penney, however, Johnson's efforts fell short as same-store sales plummeted and shareholders quickly revolted. He was fired in 2013 and replaced by his predecessor Mike Ullman.

In November, Johnson, who will serve as Enjoy's CEO, wrote an open letter announcing the venture. He said at the time that the service had already raised $30 million from several prominent venture capitalists, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, and Oak Investment Partners. Johnson has also put some of his own cash into Enjoy.

That cash has been used in part to build out the company's team of experts, who will be charged with setting up products for customers. The experts are salaried employees who set their own schedule. Deliveries can be made morning, afternoon, and night.

In addition to offering its own standalone service, Enjoy has partnered with AT&T for an add-on to the carrier's e-commerce experience. When customers in the Bay Area or New York City buy products online from AT&T, they will be given the option of having an Enjoy expert come out and set up the device for them. The offer, which will begin on May 19, will be available on select phones and tablets, though Enjoy didn't say which products will be included.

Looking ahead, it's unclear what the growth strategy will be for Enjoy. The service has a limited base of products to sell and because of its business model, requires significant investment in employees to extend its offering to other cities.

Enjoy declined to comment on its future plans, but did say that it's "expected to roll out to additional markets later this year."