During my last two years of college, I worked part-time at JC Penney. Yes, you may recognize my famous face from the Customer Service/Catalog desk at your beloved Woodbury location (ahthankyouverymuch).
Therefore, I've been closely following the rise and fall of JC Penney's major pricing and marketing overhauls over the last year. And while I try to blog only humorous and lighthearted topics, I have some thoughts on one of America’s biggest retailers, and wondering why the heck their doing what their doing.
In January 2012, as you may have heard, JC Penney’s new CEO, Ron Johnson, swore to do away with the dizzying number of sales and coupons that were sent out week after week. They vowed to start offering only simple, affordable, everyday low prices. The company aired a series of ads showing women walking to their mailbox and getting toppled over from a stream of coupons and sale booklets. JC Penney swore this would happen no more.
And thus began the downfall. Over the last 12 months, sales dropped dramatically, stocks plummeted more than 40%, and store traffic decreased. And while they've tried many strategies to get customers in their stores (humorous new commercials featuring Ellen Degeneres free back-to-school haircut promotions, collectable holiday buttons), none of these strategies seem to be fixing the huge problems that JCPenney is facing.
This week, CEO Johnson must've realized his mistake, and has announced that they are reverting to the old formula of holding occasional sales (though he still claims the sales will not be as frequent, and they will still offer no coupons).
The stores have also been trying to reinvent themselves with a new, “hip” store-within-a-store concept, offering several mini stores in each JC Penney. The stores now feel emptier, and while some of the merchandise does look more “young, urban, and hip” (such as the Sephora store within our local JCP) I feel like this is missing their target customer completely.
We consumers understand that coupons and sales are largely a marketing gimmick, and that everyday low prices are ultimately less confusing. But where’s the fun in that?
You know what I (and most consumers) like best about stores like JC Penney and Kohls? Coupons. Well, sales plus coupons. You could walk into JC Penney on any given day, find what you want to buy, use your coupon to get what you perceive as a great deal, and walk out feeling a sense of satisfaction because you had some control over the price you paid.
So, JC Penney (or JCP as you’re now trying to become known), who are you trying to get into your stores? Young, urban fashionistas? Mothers who are looking for inexpensive clothes for the whole family? Women who swore by your comfortable brands made for women over 50? You can’t be all things to all people.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months as they bring back sales. Will the coupons come back as well? I hope so. I need some new shoes.
How do you feel about using coupons? Are you a bargain shopper, or do you just buy whatever you see that you like?