J.C. Penney Gets A Makeover

By Toni Waterman

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Feb. 3, 2012


BOSTON—It’s finally safe to turn your TV on again, now that the deafening screams of one J.C. Penney commercial has stopped. “Nooooooooooo!” is probably your first thought. Yeah, right.
 
The ad is part of an overhaul to bring the 110-year-old retailer into the 21st century. And the changes are the brainchild of new CEO Ron Johnson. He’s the guy behind Apple’s Genius Bar and Target’s sleek marketing. But turning the retail giant around won’t be easy: last quarter J.C. Penney posted a $143 million loss. That would give any CEO something to scream about.
 
So Johnson is making drastic changes. Gone are the coupons, emails and traditional markdowns. The company ran 600 promotions last year alone. Instead, the retailer is now opting to attracting customers with a simple, 3-tier sales model.
 
“Our 'everyday’ is an everyday price that perhaps would have been similar to a sales price in the past,” said J.C. Penney store manger Dawn Dyste. “And then we have our 'month long values’ that we’ll run at a special price for the month and then our 'best prices,' which will be the lowest price."
 
The “everyday prices” will be marked at least 40 percent cheaper than last year’s prices. And the “month long values” will be on items customers are looking to buy that month – like swimsuits in June. The “lowest price” is basically their clearance items, and on the first and third Friday of each month, there will be an additional discount on those items.
 
The 110-year-old Penneys joins a long list of time-honored brands, like Sears and Brigham’s Ice Cream, overhauling its image for the 21st century. Dyste said customers are fed up with complicated sale signs and coupons.
 
“It’s to the customer’s advantage that whatever day they choose to shop that’s most convenient for them, they’ll get the prices that are available,” she said.
 
There’s another big shake up coming to J.C. Penney in the next couple months: the store’s layout. No longer will customers have to wander through countless racks of clothing. The store is adopting a “store within a store” approach. The stores are going to be divided into dozens of specialty shops.
 
“We’ll be creating a distinct shopping environment with different shops within the store by brand. And we’ve made some changes to make our rows and isles a bit more spacious,” said Dyste.
 
There’s also speculation that CEO Johnson is going to channel some of his creative Apple spirit, giving every J.C. Penney a “Town Square” where customers will be offered complimentary services like haircuts or promotions like free hot dogs and ice cream.
 
For some long-time Penney loyalists at the North Shore Mall, the thought of making the shopping experience easier is a welcomed change.
 
“It’s a good idea, without the coupons,” said Beverly Modini. “Coupons are a nuisance.”
 
Rhonda Mcleoud says she loves the idea and hopes other stores do the same thing.
 
“Some days you miss the sale and then you’re regretting you didn’t get that rock bottom price, kicking yourself and now this is it,” said Mcleoud.” Rock bottom price – buy it and it’s all yours.
 
All yours without the maddening alternative of a mailbox full of coupons. At least for now.


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