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In-store retail is ‘in a period of managed decline,’ former JC Penney CEO says

As retailers move sales online to cater to consumers who want a more convenient way to shop, the number of traditional brick-and-mortar stores in the retail industry will start to decline in coming years, former J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson said Friday.

Johnson, who now heads web-based electronic retailer Enjoy Technology, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that malls may still exist, but the less productive ones will almost inevitably close down.

"We are clearly in a period of managed decline," Johnson said. "Over the next decade or two, the number of stores is going to shrink dramatically as malls close, and I think the large mall owners will invest in the better centers."

But Johnson said that it's not that people will stop shopping at malls. Instead, they will likely drive farther and spend more time at stores when they do, he said.

"There's no doubt that traffic is slowly coming out of stores as online takes a larger share of the pie," he said.

Consumers are also planning out their purchases earlier in advance as companies forecast their sales well before big discount days like Black Friday, Johnson said.

In response, "stores are very aggressive. They realize to compete now, you have to be sharp on price, sharp on content," the CEO said.

Johnson noticed the consumer-led push for convenience. That's why the former Apple retail chief started Enjoy, which is based online and focuses on delivering services to the customer rather than bringing the customer out to buy products.

The company allows customers to buy electronics online and arrange for them to be delivered by an expert, who helps set it up at no cost.

"It's really moving personal service to the digital sphere," Johnson said.