Review: JC Penney checks itself before it wrecks itself

I was locked under a hair dryer at my beauty salon this morning perusing my social media when I came across this article about JCPenney on The The article says JCPenny’s lost 4.3 million dollars in profits (roughly a third of their customers) last year.  This was on the heels of the retailer axing classic tentpole JC Penney’s brands like St. John’s Bay for newer, hipper brands from the downtown NYC fashion scene. So JCP (as it’s now called) is reaching out to customers via social media to hear our thoughts on what they are doing to cause everyone to ditch them.  Well, since you asked…
I started thinking about my experience at JCPenney last year after the new changes took effect vs. my shopping experiences throughout the years at the stores. I actually have always liked JCPenney. I have a fond place for them in my heart because of nostalgia. I remember going there as a young girl with my mother and they gave me my first store credit card when I was a teen. They were also the place I could go when I needed classic basics like a pair of loafers, a crisp, classic white button down shirt or some classically- cut khaki pants or 100% cotton underwear. It’s actually become quite a challenge in recent years to find 100% cotton underwear for women at any store. Underwear seems to only come in cotton/poly blend of some kind these days. I like pure cotton underwear… but I digress.

JCP copied Target by going after hot highend designers like Lulu Guinness (her bags for JCP pictured here)  to collaborate on lines. This is works for Target because they do limited time offers on brands and move on to the next one. This creates demand for pieces the average shopper wouldn’t buy if they were offered all the time.
Then after a heavily promoted revamp of the brand and stores, JCPenney’s became JCP and started carrying designs with the names of hip NYC designers like Charlotte Ronson (I Heart Ronson), Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman and others. The problem? Not every woman wants to (or can) look like a downtown Manhattan fashionista.  Most women don’t live on vegetable juice, SoulCycle and salads. So who is going to wear these flimsy girlie-women clothes?
Store-in-store concept works for Macy’s so JCP started  doing it too.  The difference? In Macy’s  you can’t walk more than a couple of feet without running into an employee and a register. At JCP, you can never find anyone to help you or ring up your stuff.

Moms out here in the ‘burbs need work clothes and/or  nice and easy-to-wear separates and dresses to mix and match when we take our kids to school every day. We need comfortable but nice-looking outfits for our kids’ sports events and games, parent-teacher meetings and play dates. We need clothes to wear to go out to eat with our families, to visit our in-laws, to coffee with our friends, to the grocery store. We need solids and safe prints. We professional clothes if we work outside of the home or hold positions in our communities. We don’t need bold cuts and trendy patterns. We need conservative cuts that don’t accentuate our post-baby tummies or show-off that weird jiggling fat we are starting to get under our arms.  Maybe we even need a good classic workout line to wear to our exercise classes that is easy-to-wear and affordable but looks like Lululemon?  We need classically-constructed dresses that aren’t going to allow our boobs to fall out when we are chasing our runaway toddler down the aisle at the market. We need clothes for our whole families that suit the typical American lifestyle. We need rites-of-passage clothes like our son’s first dress suit. We need everyday items we buy again and again like dress shirts for our husbands. We need inexpensive starter jewelry for our daughters.

501 Jean Bar is a bad idea because there needs to be a knowledgeable employee there. If we wanted to interface with a computer, we could stay home and order online from our desktop, phone or Ipad.

About the brands:
The average mom who shops at JCPenney isn’t primarily there for brands. She probably has a budget and won’t shop by brand unless that brand has proven that it works for her lifestyle like St. John Bay so it becomes a ‘go-to’ brand. When I go to JCPenney it’s price and function first, brand name last. A brand will become popular with me if their clothes work for me, not the other way around. I believe the reason Target has had massive success with brands is because they have limited offerings for each trendy designer brand they collaborate with. That means something new from a different brand is always coming down the pipeline. This creates a sense of urgency. Moms go in there and binge-shop because we know once something is gone it’s gone forever. JCP should offer limited-time collections too.

The shop-in-shop concept you started in recent years is sort of the modern version of the old-timey department stores because it creates real departments in the way they used to do it at the big NYC department stores in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The difference is, back in the old days of department stores, the sales people knew the merchandise inside and out. They treated the merchandise like it was special and wonderful. They didn’t just point in the general direction of something and tell you, “It’s over there.” They told you about it. They were well-groomed and helpful. They had pride in the store. They seemed well taken care of. The JCPenney’s staff these days? Not so much.
In my mom-opinion, JCP should bring back the classics and the basic clothing and accessories. Maybe have one “trendy” shop-in-shop with revolving “hot”designers brands that changes every few weeks. That creates a shopping frenzy where moms want to hurry up and get things before they are sold out. Macy’s and Target also have places to eat inside of their stores. Offering us the ability to buy a cup of coffee and a bite to eat at your store would be a good idea too. Shopping is hard work. We need fuel. Just my thoughts from Momsville.


Leave a Response