JCPenneys….There’s Still Time, Now Pay Attention!

Listen up, there is something to be said…

“Wall Street doesn’t seem to like J.C.Penney’s new everyday low pricing any better than Main Street does.”  – Associated Press, May 17, 2012

Thus was the lead yesterday in the business section as AP announced JCP stock plunged nearly 20% on Wednesday, the biggest decline in four decades.  Are you surprised?  I certainly was not…in fact, I had been waiting for it.  I’ve written more than once on this blog that I did not believe their new strategy would work…and it hasn’t.  Kohl’s response to the JCP marketing strategy was nothing short of brilliant when they featured women athletes discussing shopping as their sport.
Women of a certain age, love to shop!!
Brilliant, because it is true.  Especially in today’s economy…we want to get a good deal and we want to get great product for that good deal.  When I was in advertising and public relations, which is honestly most of my business life, I learned a few sound principals, which should not be forgotten:
1.       Women love to shop…it is their sport!  We often find pleasure in it and pride in it. 
2.       Advertising should appeal to as many senses as possible….visual and audio together are powerful….I haven’t seen a JCP television ad where you hear their name.
3.       Don’t do too much in an ad…focus on one main message.  Their television ads often attempt to cover multiple departments.
4.       Make sure your message communicates to the target audience….their Fair and Square message is confusing.  They assume that offering constant coupons and sales are unfair…women don’t think that way.  Listen, JCP, we want FABULOUS and AFFORDABLE….NOT, Fair and Square.
5.       Ellen is a comedian…not a style icon…there is nothing funny about wanting to look great at an affordable price.  We take our shopping very seriously!
If you want to sell women clothes, then style some great looks and show us why you are different from the other places.  Give up trying to bring in the Forever 21 and H & M customer….baby boomers who want to look and feel younger can be a powerful target audience for you…we have discretionary income!  But, we want to look stylish, youthful, trendy, fun, individual and powerful…all in the same wardrobe.   Once you pull us in with fashion, then, you can sell us household goods and kids clothes.
  We also want SERVICE and sales people who give us attention and are knowledgeable in fashion and style.  We shop for many reasons…remember that fun and having an experience are part of those reasons, and we are fiercely loyal to the retailers we love.   If you want some specific campaign ideas…let me know…I have some and it is not too late to save the sinking ship.  But, if your plan is to do more of the same…save your advertising dollars, it will not work.
The article explains there are future plans for JCP to turn things around.  Betsey Johnson is great for the younger crowd…but will they stay for long…younger girls are fickle and only stay until the next stylist hits Target!  Do not discount women 40+….the opportunities are great…but you have to understand the audience in order to motivate them to return to a retailer they grew up with.  You can tweak the ads all you want, but without a change in strategy, the bottom line will not change.
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(Psst…aren’t those sandals cute…they are Sam Edelman and worn by my friend Kerry!! The blue nail polish above is my friend, Carol!) 

 Join in the conversation…what do you think…can JCP turn this around??

And have a wonderful Friday!!


  1. Pam, I think we are the same age. I disagree with you although I love your blog and appreciate the chance to talk.

    The last two times shopped at JCP I was unhappy – but this was before their new fair and square marketing. I bought two sweater dresses on clearance plus coupons – whatever they had going, and so I couldn't leave them at the store because they were such a good deal. Spent $50 or so that day and gave it all away the next winter as it was ill fitting and polyester/acrylic yuk. The next time was months later – to meet my mom for her birthday. She had picked out a purse. When I went to the counter to pay – the clerk told me that if I spent $20 more I got a $20 coupon. We were late for the movie but I searched the store to find something I thought I would wear. When I took it to the counter….it's a $20 coupon for NEXT time I shop there! I was furious. I have worked long and hard to break my shopping addiction! Luckily, my daughter was also buying Grandma's birthday present that day so I handed her my coupon and she was able to use it. And I wore the necklace exactly once and will probably give it away. It's cute but very trendy and cheaply made – qualities I am working hard to avoid falling for because they give me an quick shopper high and nothing else.

    The younger generations see us as habitual shoppers; as irresponsible with the planet we were gifted; as self-centered, judgemental and spoiled. Listen carefully to their music. I've learned their lyrics are well thought out and express their frustration with us. Whether or not it's true, it's what many of them believe and there are facts that could support their belief. And many of them do not see a life of ahead of full employment or middle class incomes.

    I don't know the solution for JCP as they try and maneuver themselves through the demographics of the marketplace, but I know my daughter's generation is more likely to search high and low for nearly new clothing in the exact size, brand, etc. rather than buy new. They want to avoid triggering the supply chain to crank out thousands more. And they would be more likely to appreciate the fair and square pricing as they buy what they need, when they need it.

    1. I think the mention of H&M / F-21 is interesting. They aren't stores where the discounting cycle is a big thing. If I do see something I want at those retailers I buy it right then. It won't be there next week to be marked down.

      I hadn't thought about this being a generational behavior pattern, but I suppose that's possible. Pam, two weeks ago you bought two dresses at a BOGOF deal, and then turned around and told us you couldn't consider a not-black jacket because you spent all your money. What if the dress had been honestly priced at half of the ticket? Then you'd have had the budget for a jacket too.

      Maybe the whole discounting/coupon driven thing does drive us into too much stuff that leaves us staring at our closets saying, "but I don't have anything that I can wear."

  2. Pam,

    I agree! I barely look at their mailers any more and I miss their wonderful clearance sales! It's not the same JCP where you could count on style and value.

    By the way….I'm another "over 50 and feeling 40" lady! I just turned 51. Love your blog! Love the over 50's being represented in blogland!

    I have just begun my own blog and would love if you could check it out and consider following!

  3. Frankly, I think JCP is doomed. It was a stodgey brand to begin with and they missed the opportunity to turn things around. Good point on the mistake trying to capture the F-21 crowd. Also, the brands that know the power of the +40 niches don't try to scream young- they assert quality. I'm thinking Land's End, Chico's, J Crew, Net-a-Porter, etc. Even us frugals would prefer to see a quality bargain than disposable chic. JCP needs to call it quits.

  4. Great point,Pam!
    When Sears focused on "The Softer Side of Sears" it's shares went through the roof, then the Craftsman and K-mart focus off-set the power of their original goal-to bring in the spenders-WOMEN! They still have great clothes and great prices, but no one knows it anymore!
    ( I used to work there 😉
    great topic and boy, Ellen is giving away tons of their stuff right now as I suppose no one is buying it,LOL!
    have a great weekend,

  5. I would give anything to find a "fair and square" store. STOP the madness of the coupons and buy 2 get 6 free routine. All of us are just naturally greedy. It is our nature. That does not mean we should encourage it. Adv and marketers know we are all greedy so they are capitalizing on telling us the more we purchase with them the cheaper it is when in the long run we are the ones being duped into buying way more than we need. I was sucked into that when Claire's did it years ago and the first time I almost fell for it until after searching the store for something else I wanted I realize I did not want anything else but psychologically I felt like I was overspending if I did not force myself to get something else. Ladies, get a grip and just say NO to all these coupons, store reward cards and tricks. If you fall for one gimmick you will fall for them all and that is what they are counting on.

  6. Hi Pam!
    Trying to catch up! I would never buy at JC Penney anyway!
    I think they have a store in Montreal in the most expensive shopping mall in Mtl
    Have a good weekend


  7. Thanks to all so far who have joined in the discussion!! There must be many women like me…who want to believe we hunted down quality pieces at good prices…because obviously the JCP strategy isn't working. I only mentioned F-21 to show the fickleness of the younger buyers…I believe 40+ would be the target where JCP should put their money on for now! Also, I did buy two beautiful dresses at a BOGO sale…averaged out $40 each, both trendy, stylish and flattering…quality. I haven't seen anything like them at JCP for that price. Sure I have seen lower priced dresses there, but not quality pieces in my size range. Also, I do not mind retailers making a profit…in fact, I applaud it! That is why I wrote this post…to attempt to help JCP understand the mindset of most (not all) women shoppers. I want them to survive and I also want to look fabulous at an affordable rate. This is more about communications to the woman shopper than anything. They have not communicated well. I, like many ladies,m love a treasure hunt…no matter the store. Hopefully, by encouraging my audience to thrift and have fun at the local Goodwill, we are all helping the planet :)!! Please keep the discussion going..we will all learn from one another and maybe help a department store survive.

  8. Hi Pam! Though you are at the age of 50's but you are still looking gorgeous! It's rare to see woman at this age who are still very conscious on their style and outfit. I just hope I can be as fabulous and beautiful as you are even when I get reach my age of 50's.

    Anyway, have a nice and wonderful day!

  9. Pam, you are right on! If there were a retailer out there who would target women (empty nesters? over 40? mature?…whatever the moniker)and do so without being condescending or acting like we all want to look 20; there would be some SERIOUS money to be made! As you say, we have discretionary income and we don't mind using it. We're just not quite as trend impressionable as a younger shopper. JCP's entire campaign started out on the wrong foot. All the screaming in the commercials! UGH!!! Hugs to you gorgeous! ~Serene

  10. Sound advice. Too bad they listened to some executive with a high salary instead of you. I went once because they are one of the few places that sell tall sizes and found a nice pair of black pants, but all in all the store reminded me of Wal Mart and the service… pppfffftt. No, I don't think they will be able to pull it out unfortunately.

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