"I'm treating this like a start-up," Johnson said. "After this year, it's like starting over and that's how you'll have to look at the comparison. It's time to build loyalty through real value. If you're looking long-term [as an investor] there's a lot to like."
Those following the J.C. Penney transformation are divided, and it proved to be a point of conversation at this week's Value Investing Congress in New York City.
Activist investors like Pershing Square's Bill Ackman think Johnson's vision will transform more than just the store itself, but all of retail. Others, like T2 Partners' Whitney Tilson are looking for "conviction" to buy back shares of J.C. Penney, but don't have any of that reassurance right now.
Lloyd Khaner, general partner at Khaner Capital doesn't own any J.C. Penney shares, but does think it's a successful turnaround in the making. Khaner is closely monitoring J.C. Penney among others in the midst of turnarounds and expects volatility in the short-term, and will buy when the debt-to-capital ratio falls.
When I asked him what his biggest lesson has been so far, he said it's understanding what customers want. Johnson admits J.C. Penney fumbled when it come to certain aspects of the pricing change in the beginning. (Read More: Even as Sales Fall, J.C. Penney CEO Vows to Stay Course)
And when it comes to Black Friday, Johnson said, J.C. Penney will certainly participate, but in its "Fair & Square" way, J.C. Penney won't be the place shoppers go for extraordinary discounts. While he wasn't ready to give me details about the holiday strategy just yet, he said, "if you liked free haircuts for kids during back to school, you're going to love what we will announce Nov. 1 for the holidays."
Finally, I asked Johnson what his Christmas wish for J.C. Penney is, and he replied immediately "[store] Traffic. If customers come into J.C. Penney enney, they'll love what they find."
-By Courtney Reagan, CNBC Reporter - Follow Courtney on Twitter
@CourtReaganQuestions? Comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.