Aside

JCPenney – Beat and Battered

From a shopper and outsider’s point of view, JCP (JCPenney) has struggled with identity over the past two years. Figuring out what they want to be and who exactly they want to sell to. One could say that JCP has been through the trenches the past few years. Ron Johnson (previously of Apple and Target fame), attempted to revamp the brand. He brought in new designers, freshened up the logo, and monikered the name to JCP, and he even nabbed Ellen as a spokesperson. It all seemed like a good plan, until people stopped shopping.

I must admit, I began to shop at JCP during the attempted-revamp. They launched a new menswear (and womenswear) line called JCP, which was set to replace the aging St. John’s Bay-line. The line was great! Trim-fit button-downs, polos and slimmer-legged pants all fit into my budget and my style.

What I believe happened was that JCP attempted to rebrand too fast. They dumped the less modern brands in lieu of the slimmer fits, and more trendy, forward styles. This scared the devoted JCPenney customer, where I believe most reside in the 50+ age range. They also attempted a new pricing strategy, which didn’t abode well with the bargain-hungry consumer. JCP built their sales on “Our Everyday Low Prices.” This didn’t give the bargain-hungry the deals they were expecting (even though the pricing was supremely lower compared to the competition mainly in Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Sears). They did away with coupons and the majority of promotions. I believe the price-conscious consumer wants to believe that they’re getting a phenomenal deal by using coupons, in-store promotions, first-borns, and sales to get that rock-bottom price (hey, I’m one of them).

The new store construction with the goal of Shoppes-in-Shop (think of a mall within a mall with ever-changing brands) was timely, costly, and confused customers. JCP has since backtracked as much as they could to return to their heyday. They quickly brought back old merchandise and brands, changed pricing-strategies, brought back sales and coupons, and halted pricey construction. They even brought back the vehemently JCPenney logo. There’s even been talks about reissuing the catalogue (remember that 30lb. book?).

My advice? I’m no MBA-student but I’m a seasoned-shopper. I know sales, and I know bargains. JCP could have been successful if they were more conscious on who their prime target audience is. Don’t alienate them. There’s room at the party for both. Keep bringing in fresh merchandise and off-shoot brands from well-known designers. It works, it’s appealing, and it’s exclusive. The pricing strategy was smart but still people LOVE those coupons. Keep the coupons and make the customer believe that they’re getting the best deal already at JCP, but it’s sweetened even more with that extra 10, 15, or 20%-off coupon, if this is fathomable.

One place they should’ve invested heavily (and still can) on was JCP.com. Their website is the forefront of business for the busy technophile. Their current website is a bit boring. Make it modern. Hire a few geeks (love ya!) from Silicon Valley to amp up the style. Modernize your shipping for Pete’s sake! 10 days to get a package? Unheard of! Ship-to-Store? Really? C’mon! Offer JCP-cardholders free 2-day shipping or a fresh “$3 ships it all” price. Maybe subscribe to ShopRunner (Lord and Taylor and Neiman Marcus have been successful with it…even American Express has invested heavily in it). I don’t want to wait to get my shipment. Another thing, don’t completely drop the JCP-moniker. It’s easy, smart, and still sounds better than saying JCPenney or the dreaded Penney’s (umm hi, Grandma). JCP, you don’t want to be Macy’s (and their awful service) and you’re definitely doing better than Sears. Figure out your identity, you’ll be okay. I know plenty of people who love you, me included!

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