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