Doug Garnett’s Blog


Why Does JC Penney’s Struggle?

After all the hoopla of hiring an Apple magician (only magical, of course, because he was at Apple) and the hype surrounding some really odd advertising, why is it that JC Penney’s is struggling?

Let me refer you to two really interesting posts on the topic.

The first post is found on the HBR website (link here) and suggests that there’s a fundamental flaw in the idea of “Fair Price”.

In reality, this Penney’s price strategy probably sounds great if you’ve been reading AdBusters or drinking too deeply the heady elixir of mythologies about the “new consumer”. But it violates several areas of fundamental human nature. One area being the “treasure hunt” aspect of shopping – the satisfaction shoppers find when they’ve dug around and found the best deal. We need to keep in mind that a “sale” delivers a tremendous human value that is far deeper than merely the money saved.

(After publishing this post, it emerges that JC Penney’s is already adjusting their pricing strategy. Here is more from RetailWire.)

The second post is from Steven P. Dennis’ blog. (Link here.) Steven Dennis has an extensive career in upper level strategic roles at retailers from Sears to Neiman Marcus. He reports a shocking shift at JC Penney’s – that they’ve ejected the strategy teams whose jobs were spent understanding the JC Penney’s consumer. (A dysfunctional extension of hubris with a CEO who came from Apple.) Here’s a link to my own thoughts about Jobs’ research legacy & how it might lead someone like Penney’s CEO Ron Johnson astray.

We’ll see where JC Penney’s ends up. I have some emotional connection with the brand even though I don’t shop there today. I dragged my family to their “mother store” while driving through Kemmerer, Wyoming last summer on vacation (we’d been at the superb fossil bed national monument nearby on our way to visit my brother in Laramie, Wyoming). And I grew up shopping at JC Penney’s – even bought my first fly rod in their store in Boulder, Colorado.

It would be too bad to see them fall apart just because their CEO struggles to understand the difference between selling Apples in an exotic brand store and selling fundamental clothing in malls.

Let’s hope they learn some lessons quickly and get back on track.

Copyright 2012 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved


Categories:   Advertising, Business and Strategy, Communication, Consumer research, Human Tech, Marketing Research, Research & Attribution, Retail marketing


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