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JCPenney Finally Gets It

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I’ve shopped at JCPenney since I was a kid and worked in the store in the late 90’s (that’s where I met my wife) and again around 2006. Over that time, I noticed something that always amused me: everything was always 50% off or some iteration thereof (buy one get one free or for a penny). The regular prices seemed to be double what you would usually pay and the sale prices would then seem affordable. Coupled with constant “Doorbusters,” clearance and sales advertisements, it was clear to me that the company was simply a discount retailer. (Funny, as I’m working on this, I just got to the point in their Launch Event video where their new CEO details that 72% of their inventory sells at 50% or less. We could have told them that 10 years ago)

it was clear to me that the company was simply a discount retailer

A funny thing happened in my second stint as an employee though. The company implemented a new campaign that, to me, was just confusing. It was an attempt to class the place up but didn’t work. The tag line was “Every Day Matters” but they also used “Today is the Day.” Both inspirational, for sure, but the commercials and ads they used to promote Penney’s were just too artsy and unmemorable. Stock prices dropped and they soon began a mix of their old sale-all-the-time ads and these new “Lovemark” ones which just created a mess. Then, last year, they introduced a new logo based on submissions from students and employees. It didn’t impress. If it wasn’t for their cash reserves, JCPenney may have gone the way of RobinsonsMay (anyone remember them?) very quickly.

Now, less than a year after their previous redesign, the company has held a press conference to announce their new look and philosophy.

A logo doesn’t exist in a vacuum

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the logo itself but, like I always tell my clients, you have to look at the entire application. A logo doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sold on their application but I am sold on their new philosophy which is what truly drives a brand. Their first pledge is pricing consistency. No more massive sales and clearance events. If a certain shirt priced at $20, sold at $9 all these years, it will now be regularly priced at $10. Wow! What a concept. Every day low prices (that may be another retailer). This seems to drive the rest of their promotional plans. The concept of fresh air and simplicity permeates everything they do. Not a bad idea. I really hope they commit to this pricing consistency and stick with it over the long haul. It’s worked for Apple and other high end retailers.

They also commit to easy returns and reducing their 590 promotions throughout the year (that’s close to two a week) to 12. A monthly calendar of their sales and promotions. Each month will have its own color scheme and theme. It’s an attempt to reflect how their customers shop and not how they want them to. It’s a good idea and I think it plays of the scarcity tactic. “Here’s what’s happening this month. If you miss these days, they’re gone.”

JCPenney is not the hippest retailer, but I am excited about their new direction. Mostly because of the history I have with the brand (heck, I got a wife and two kids there). If you want the full presentation—it’s very interesting where he breaks down the pricing and its effect on the rest of the brand—watch the video of their Launch Event Presentation:

What’s your thoughts? Think you’ll give JCP another look?

  • Excellent analysis, Jason!  You’re obviously a marketing guy masquerading as a designer!

    • Thanks Rick. I struggle with the dual identities. Kinda like Batman.