A Penney Not Saved

Oh, it’s official–the J.C. Penney store at my nearest mall is going away. The Northgate Shopping Center, which opened in 1950 as one of the country’s first post-war shopping centers, is going through a massive renovation that has no room for the big anchor stores that every successful mall needed. Penney’s is going through the closing process and Macy’s will be right behind it this July. In a few years, the shopping center will be transformed into a mixed-use center with hotels, housing, offices and the headquarters and practice facility for our new N.H.L. expansion team.

The going-out-of-business signs went up a week ago. There are those guys on the street corners, holding up the 50-70% off signs. We decided to go take a look and it was sad. Yes, times change, things come and go, and yes, we scored some great deals. But what we saw when we got there really drove home the point it was going away. You can’t access the downstairs. Where the men’s department and housewares used to be is now where all the shelves and racks are being stored. All the merchandise has been moved upstairs with ‘All Sales Final’ posted prominently everywhere.

I’ve always joked that the two places I only buy clothes are Costco and Penney’s.  That joke has now been cut in half. Penney’s is where my mom went to work, back in the 1960s when women dared to start working outside the home. Since my parents had one vehicle, I remember dad and us kids all piling into the car around 9:30 in our pajamas and then head over and wait outside the employee entrance for when mom got off.

Victoria’s dad was a school teacher, but started working at Penney’s to help supplement the family budget and was one of the first hires of that new Penney’s when it opened in Northgate many years ago. As a retired Penney’s employee, I believe he gets the employee discount for life, as long as he can find a Penney’s store still open.

But now, like so many things of his generation and now, my generation, it’s going away. I have to say, it’s very strange to see things that have been around your entire life just fade off into history. Perhaps it’s just another reminder to appreciate the day and all that is around us. I’m going with that.

Tim Hunter

Thoughts for you, Penneys

JCP homepage

I don’t know what happened at J.C. Penney, but it’s not working.

Just a few holiday seasons ago, J.C. Penney was the darling of retailers, bringing in record profits while the rest of the stores complained that business was down.  They did it with early morning and special hour sales and huge discounts.  Give people a sale and they will come.

Then, a C.E.O. (now, a former C.E.O.) had this idea to offer great values every day. Yeah, right.  That’s what we wanted.  The goal, I believe, was to get away from the “sales” mentality to move products.  There would be less sporadic marking down and more consistent discounts with clearly marked signs and a neater looking store.

Sorry, but that’s not why I shop at Penneys.

Mr. Penney, please take note of my recent experience.  Two weeks ago, I was emceeing an auction and I thought it would be nice to have a new dress shirt.  So, I went to Penneys and looked for the sale shirts. Nothing.  Oh, wait, there’s a $15 one.  Well, it’s OK.  But to play it safe, I’ll get this $35 in a slightly larger size.  I got up to the cash register and the total, with tax, came to $37.  Huh?  So, apparently one was on sale and I didn’t know it.  So, score!

I took the shirts home and neither of them fit well (tight across the shoulders) so I was 0-2 and just stuck with a shirt I already had.  I put the two shirts back in a bag.

A week later, I finally got around to returning the shirts and they were credited to my VISA, no problem.  Once again, I began the hunt for a nicer, well-fitting shirt.

I found a really nice, no-wrinkle shirt that was $45.  Hey, if it fits and I like it, what’s it matter?  I picked it up as an employee walked up and said, “May I help you?”  I said, “Can you tell me if this shirt is on sale? I don’t see any signs or anything.”  She responded, “Oh, I don’t think it is, but I’ll check.”  She wipped out a little hand-held computer, scanned the shirt’s tag and informed me of its status.  “Yes, it’s on sale for $15.”


So, Mr. Penney, my suggestions:

  • Go back to clearly marking which items are on sale.  Even the employee didn’t know the shirt I bought was on sale!
  • Let people know the old J.C. Penneys is back.  Great sale prices, easy to understand tags…you know, the stuff that got you there!

I’ll most likely be back, but I think you lost a lot of people over the past few years who didn’t take the time to ask, “So, what’s the real price?”

Tim Hunter

P.S. By the way, since writing this little piece, Penneys has come out with an apology ad, which you can see here