“Lots of people think we’re crazy. But that’s what it takes to get ahead.”
November 28, 2012 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Ron Johnson, who was responsible for Target and Apple's wildly successful retail chains, is now trying to reinvent the department store from the ground up as J. C. Penney's new CEO: divid[ing] stores into 100 shops that [...] will each be like its own small store. Surrounding the shops will be wide aisles that Johnson calls 'streets.' Along those pathways will be ice cream and coffee bars and wood tables with built-in iPad tablet computers that shoppers can use to surf online. But after quarter after quarter of heavy loss, some analysts think Johnson is destroying J. C. Penney. But they've predicted his failure before. More on Johnson's work with the Apple Store. Johnson himself on what he learned building the Apple Store.
posted by Rory Marinich (65 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
That actually sounds kind of cool. The JC Penny's in Brunswick, at least, is basically a bog-standard clothes store. It needs some kind of differentiating factor so people don't confuse it with, say, Belk's, which is in our same mall.
posted by JHarris at 6:05 PM on November 28, 2012


How is adopting the Fred Meyer business model a "reinvention"?
posted by Brocktoon at 6:09 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know some people don't like the new pricing model where they've done away with the constant % off sales, but I rather like it. I've found some decent things there lately too.
posted by bizzyb at 6:11 PM on November 28, 2012


The second N in the JC PENNEY sign above the main entrance to the store in my local mall has been burned out since Ron Johnson took over the chain. Can't imagine that would happen at an Apple store.

And I think I've said this before, but really, he should just clone or license everything Uniqlo does.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:14 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Their big new competition around here is Kohls, which has pretty much the exact opposite pricing strategy. If you ever buy something at Kohls at full price, you're doing it wrong. And their stores are much newer and Eco friendly.
posted by smackfu at 6:14 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


So the locations that are in malls will be like another mall embedded inside the first one. I wonder if any of the JC Penney sub-shops will have their own separate sub-boutiques in them.

It'll be, like, Inception retailing. Whoa.
posted by XMLicious at 6:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [24 favorites]


The last time I was in a Penny's, it was a jumbled mess, pretty much the platonic opposite of an Apple store. So they definitely need to try something different, and I hope this works for them.
posted by Forktine at 6:19 PM on November 28, 2012


Oh you are missing almost the best part of the story, which is the Hedge Fund guy who went activist on their board and basically hired Johnson. He did this bizarre interview with Aaron Ross Sorkin a few weeks ago.
posted by JPD at 6:21 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I shop at Penny's for clothing a lot. The "sales" for the most part were illusionary and I find myself paying today what I've always paid. Before Ron Johnson Stafford Broadcloth shirts were always on sale from their "regular" price of $35 to $20. Now they're just always $20.

I like the new Penny's.
posted by sourwookie at 6:21 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


So...he's making it a department store? Again?
posted by DU at 6:23 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


He ditched the nearly 600 sales Penney offered throughout the year

That's almost two sales a day, every day.
posted by sourwookie at 6:31 PM on November 28, 2012


He ruined Penney's. See, Penney's is not where trendy people go. It is...or WAS...where old farts like me or younger old farts in training went to get regular clothes or other crap we needed, and more the better, on sale. My husband's dress shirts came from there for years.


This guy comes in and totally tampers with the store. I get that he wants a younger more hip crowd in there but that ain't happening, and meanwhile he is alienating those of us who WERE shopping there. Good luck with that, dude.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


How about they sort the stafford dress shirts so that I can find one in my size without having to look on every shelf? That's what I want, not ice cream.
posted by Area Man at 6:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


Area Man, exactly. For years those were the only dress shirts my husband wore.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:38 PM on November 28, 2012


divid[ing] stores into 100 shops that [...] will each be like its own small store. Surrounding the shops will be wide aisles that Johnson calls 'streets.' Along those pathways will be ice cream and coffee bars and wood tables with built-in iPad tablet computers that shoppers can use to surf online.

Huh. A branded mall. Sounds like an experiment worth trying at least.

old farts like me or younger old farts in training went to get regular clothes

Internet retail really killed this for me. I can get plain old boring shirts at low prices delivered right to my doorstep. I only have to set foot in a clothing store if I'm looking for something out of the ordinary.

That's the problem with younger old farts, technology eventually catches up with them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:41 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate big stores.
posted by philip-random at 6:44 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yo Dawg, I heard you like malls. So, we're putting a mall inside a mall.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 6:45 PM on November 28, 2012 [29 favorites]


Hey, as long as the keep the sense of crushing despair that overcomes you when you walk in the place, I'm o.k. with this.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:47 PM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


He ruined Penney's. See, Penney's is not where trendy people go. It is...or WAS...where old farts like me or younger old farts in training went to get regular clothes or other crap we needed, and more the better, on sale. My husband's dress shirts came from there for years.

Big box discounters like Costco and Wal-Mart fulfill this niche with better prices and in the case of Costco, better quality.

JC Penney really doesn't have a niche anymore. Downscale department store shoppers wanting to go get something on sale can go to Macy's. If you want to go more downscale than that, you have tons of options at better prices than Penney's.
posted by deanc at 6:50 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Predictable pricing is a great thing.
The problem is, in the mall arena, you're competing against psychology and years of consumer training.

In the first instance, people assume 'sale! sale! sale!' means a better deal, even if the sale price is higher than the store next door.

In the second, consumers have been trained for years that if X is $10 now, it'll probably go on sale for $7 in a month or two.

I'm not sure if "Jacques Say Pennay' can overcome these perceptions before completely cratering but I hope they do.
posted by madajb at 6:51 PM on November 28, 2012


Back in the day before the San Fernando Valley even had a Walmart, there was a "JC Penney Catalog Surplus Store" where I got much of my everyday XXL clothing at reduced prices that made their perpetual sale-baiting look way overpriced. Not to mention many products that usually only existed in the catalog, not a retail store. When that closed down a decade ago (to become a KOHL'S) it was all over.

My own 'old fart' wardrobe has been almost exclusively on-line-acquired for years... it's been a long time since I saw a JCP sale price that wasn't easily beaten by Target, Costco, Amazon, (hold your nose) Walmart or even (hold your nose harder) KMart. If you can't compete with KMart, you're not competing with anybody. This isn't ruining anything, just pulling the plug on a near-death business model. Whether the new business model has a snowball's chance in hell... well, I haven't seen anybody going broke by underestimating the intelligence of "upscale" American shoppers... (Macy's 'Donald Trump' branded products... what more can I say?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:55 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm not a mall shopper. I'm not actually much of a shopper. But the new pricing scheme sounds like a much more transparent, appealing scheme than the previous game of "watch the weekly circulars and be ready to shop during the appropriate time period". It makes me want to check out the store and see what they offer these days and what the prices are.

So maybe the mall-trained consumer isn't the demographic they're trying to hit with this new plan.
posted by hippybear at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to buy socks and underwear at Sears. Then I used to buy socks and underwear at Penney's. Now I buy socks and underwear from Amazon. I am happy with this. What was once a chore is now a couple of clicks and a package at the door. There is no amount of ice cream and iPads that will induce me into going back to the mall. There are people there. Ick.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


I liked Penney's, but something needs to be done to modernize it or it will go away.
posted by mkelley at 7:09 PM on November 28, 2012


Interesting. Recreating the "feel" of a small town shopping district without the reality underlying it, even more than a mall. No free speech, no free expression, no free assembly; none of that messy stuff on their property. This is a step in the wrong direction for the health of our society.
posted by scalefree at 7:11 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Big box discounters like Costco and Wal-Mart fulfill this niche with better prices and in the case of Costco, better quality.

I'm pretty nervous, as JC Penny is pretty much the only place I can go to buy big-and-tall clothes of good quality at a decent price. Casual Male charges an arm and a leg, and their quality is nothing to write home about, and Destination XL is worse - $150 for jeans I'm going to wear in the garden? And it splits at the crotch the second time I wear them? For reals? Online boutiques generally have shoddy-ass clothes, too.

Walmart/Kmart/Kohls doesn't carry much above 3XL (I need 3XLT), and certainly not dress shirts, and we don't have a Costco near where I live, so I don't know if they carry my size, and it's academic if they did.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right now I live in a run-down little town where the Penney's is the only store of its kind—the only place where you could buy a suit or a dress you could wear if you worked at an office. We also have a run-down older Walmart and a discount women's store called Fashion Bug. That's it, unless you count t-shirts sold here and there.

The WalMart and the Fashion Bug seem to stay fairly busy, despite year five of the depression out here. Every time I've gone to the small, dark, musty and disheveled Penney's for something like socks or school clothes for my kids, there's a maximum of four customers in the store. Sometimes it's just me and the clerks. If it was a locally owned business, it would've closed down years ago.

Everywhere I see Penney's (excluding the one in Manhattan), they're someplace you could film a late 1970s or early 1980s period piece with little effort. They're not inexpensive and brazen like a new discount store, and they're not fancy enough for the local gentry (who will take shopping trips to the city and order online).

The parts of America where Penney's still exist could all really use a decent chain of kids' clothing stores like A Children's Place. Penney's still has a vague reputation for where you can get a holiday outfit or church/funeral suit for your kids. Seems like with Walmart and Dollar General and Kohls and Ross and all the other brightly lit warehouse-style discounters, there's no point in Penney's burning more money trying to again become something that serves a vanishing demographic of polite working- and middle-class American families. Becoming a place to find decent but not overpriced kids' clothes might work. (You can have that idea for free, Ron!)
posted by kenlayne at 7:15 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


This past Sunday 'CBS Sunday Morning' did an interview with Ron Johnson: Reinventing The Department Store (w/ video).
posted by ericb at 7:23 PM on November 28, 2012


There are people there. Ick.

I like people! Some of my best friends are people.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this where I can talk about the Apple store? Good.

Two days ago, my Macbook's power adapter died. Second time this year, but that's neither here nor there.

I used my (Android) phone to browse to Apple's (non-mobile!?) site, and figured out that they didn't have any Genius Bar slots available anytime soon, and it was basically impossible to book one several days out on a smartphone.

Okay. I'll just call them, explain that I have a really simple problem, and ask if I can come in tonight.

I call the store. After the automated system informs me that Genius Bar appointments can be booked online, a real person picks up, and tells me that the appointments can *only* be booked online. The rep told me that I should either get an iPhone, borrow a friend's computer, or come into the store to use one of their computers to do it. For a service whose sole function is to cater to people with broken computers, this seems like an incredibly glaring oversight.

I finally borrowed my roommate's computer, and booked an appointment at a store in another state. When I got there today, the place was swarming with employees and customers, although there were no clear queues or indications of who to talk to, and the whole thing was really quite overwhelming. It took a surprisingly long time to flag a person down (an introvert's nightmare), although it was nice to see that their entire staff did seem to be trained in the full range of the store's functions.

Finally, my appointed genius, Chad, showed up about 5 minutes after my scheduled appointment. Not bad. Chad was really friendly, checked my warranty status, and gave me a new power adapter with absolutely no fuss, and apologized that I'd gone through two in one year. At least that part of the Apple experience is still intact. Thanks Chad.

On my way out, I stopped by the Microsoft Store. It was a blatant ripoff of Apple's retail operation, but a bit less crazy, more cozy, and whoa the Win8 hybrid PCs, Windows Phones, and Surface are all unbelievably slick.

posted by schmod at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I actually totally forgot they were going to launch those Microsoft stores and didn't even know they existed now. I wonder if there's one near me.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:38 PM on November 28, 2012


If I'm recalling correctly, JCPenney doesn't exactly have a sterling track record with their wireless checkout security. Those in-store surfing stations might come with a huge risk of identity theft.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:44 PM on November 28, 2012


I actually totally forgot they were going to launch those Microsoft stores and didn't even know they existed now. I wonder if there's one near me.

Check your local Apple store. There'll usually be a Microsoft Store right across or right next to it.
posted by Talez at 7:44 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "Back in the day before the San Fernando Valley even had a Walmart, there was a "JC Penney Catalog Surplus Store" where I got much of my everyday XXL clothing at reduced prices that made their perpetual sale-baiting look way overpriced. Not to mention many products that usually only existed in the catalog, not a retail store. When that closed down a decade ago (to become a KOHL'S) it was all over."

There was one near me, only it was called JCPenney Outlet. Loved it - they had clothing and bras in sizes not normally carried in the stores and the prices were amazing. I miss it.

I actually like the new pricing structure at JCPenney, and they have one of the better selections of plus size clothing. Plus I like the Sephora shops in the store. I hope this effort succeeds.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:52 PM on November 28, 2012


I'm pretty nervous, as JC Penny is pretty much the only place I can go to buy big-and-tall clothes of good quality at a decent price.

I need tall shirts. Bigger shirts don't do it (so forget WalMart and Target--Penny's is my only choice in town (There is a Casual Male across the street but $30 for a pocket tee? Fuck that noise. I'd be thrilled for their strip mall spot to be filled by something happier like, say, a payday loan place or a plasma center). So yeah. That's about they only place I can get an XLT or XXLT off the shelf. And tee shirts aside, I like to try things on often.

So the tip on Stafford vs. other dress shirts (I wear 'em casually): That length measurement is technically a sleeve measurement. So you get a 36-37 dress shirt from Arrow, you get a shirt with really long sleeves and a regular length torso. Boo. Worthless. You get a 36-37 from Stafford, you get really long sleeves and a correspondingly long torso. YAY! Now give me more colors!
posted by sourwookie at 7:54 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


This idea of lots of mini-stores reminds me of the way that Japanese department stores are organized. Each floor is divided into dozens of little shops, some leased by small boutiques, and others run by the store itself. Lots of these stores (PARCO comes to mind) manage to skew young in a way that American retailers would kill for while holding steady financially. It might not be a bad model to try.
posted by Alison at 7:55 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the new Penney's idea quite a bit -- dealing with a hojillion coupons and wondering if I've got the lowest one they currently offer (Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc) is a hassle. The only Penney's I've been to since the pricing change has been in the middle of renovations, so hard to say what it'll look like later. I liked the prices, disliked the disorganization, and thought the goods were of the same not-great quality that all affordable clothing is everywhere.

Having read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion a while back, I just don't want to buy any readymade clothes where I can avoid it. Meh.
posted by asperity at 7:59 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah I dunno about the "boutique" thing (Target is also heading in this direction I think, at least somewhat), but I've been Penney's shopper for years and I really love the revamp that's taken place this year. It's much less like a place where your maiden aunt would shop for A-line skirts and sensible shoes, and more like a place where you can find something fun and colorful and moderately priced.

Never fear though, maiden aunts of the U.S.: Kohl's has you covered.
posted by trunk muffins at 8:04 PM on November 28, 2012


There's one big issue that's not discussed. Apple stores require a lot of knowledge and customer support. Buying socks and jeans does not. People aren't going to come to JCP thinking, "Hey someone's going to give me great advice on rebooting my socks."

OTOH, they could certainly do somethings like "order on web/pick up same day at store" that is being done at Apple (and elsewhere), but the Apple store doesn't really seem like the right model here.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:08 PM on November 28, 2012


There'll usually be a Microsoft Store right across or right next to it.

Heh. Completely off topic and I apologize, but that reminds me of a case study I saw of Big Box hardware stores expanding into Ontario in the 90s:

One chain spent millions on market research, analysing population distribution, mobility, road traffic, income levels, etc, discovering what the sub-markets were for various kinds of building and renovation in each county. From this they came up with the optimal store deployment, picking locations that were usually between two or more bedroom communities, close to highways and major traffic arteries. They struck the perfect balance between efficient delivery routes, proximity to homebuilders and DIY markets, and far enough apart not to compete with each other. The goal was to avoid the Starbucks problem and instead have a huge deployment of 35+ stores where every location would be successful thanks to their superior market research. They were miles ahead of the competition and their research methods were closely guarded trade secrets.

Two competing big box hardware chains moved into the region a few years later, having seen how successful the pioneer had been. Instead of attempting to undertake similar market research of their own, they simply worked their real estate connections to secure lots as close as possible (often directly across the street) from the first chain.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:14 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I no longer buy anything at Kohl's that I intend to wear more than 5 times, because that's how many washes you get before it unravels.
posted by emjaybee at 8:20 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't work directly for JCP, but I've actually been working on this project with them for some time now. The implementation will be slow, but Ron has a bold vision that goes far beyond what little he's leaked to the press.

While I've been working on the long-term overall store design that's 2-3 years out, I'm curious about the minor store transformations that have happened already (though not everywhere). What have people seen in the "new" stores, in terms of new layouts, materials, and lighting? Positive/Negative?
posted by sharkitect at 8:29 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Two competing big box hardware chains moved into the region a few years later, having seen how successful the pioneer had been. Instead of attempting to undertake similar market research of their own, they simply worked their real estate connections to secure lots as close as possible (often directly across the street) from the first chain.

See McDonalds and Burger King.
posted by oflinkey at 8:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem I have with Penney's (and I know other retailers do it, too) is the ones around here are aggressively seasonal. I needed a shirt a few weekends back and figured I'd drop in only to find it filled to the brim with heavy winter coats and flannel-lined parkas and enormous, heavy sweaters and such, which may be of some use up North but it was 85 degrees here in ATX and there wasn't a single short-sleeved shirt (or shirt that wouldn't make you die of heatstroke) in my size. So I went online and bought a couple short-sleeved shirts in my size that were on sale because hey, why not? And I was reminded why I don't go to Penney's.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:40 PM on November 28, 2012


The only difference I've seen in the JC Penney's in Tucson is that the prices have gone up.

I don't want a boutique. I want new pants. I don't want freaking iPads; I have a phone in my pocket. I don't want ice cream; I had too much ice cream, that's why I need new pants. I just want cheap, decent work clothes. Something that says, "I bought these to look decent and presentable at work, but I'm totally not trying to impress anyone at work, because they don't pay me enough to impress anyone."

I don't want loud, bad music blaring at me from huge TV displays that remind me of how big the markup here really is. I don't want a designer name on anything I wear. I don't want anyone to notice, or care about, whatever the hell I'm wearing today. My style can be best summed up as "whatever happened to be clean."

And if I sound pissed off, well, I am. I used to go to Mervyn's; they closed down. Kohls is all the way across town, and by the time I get there the coupon will have expired, and full price at Kohls is absurd. Plus, too snooty. Target and Wal-Mart clothes are apparently made out of an inferior grade of tissue paper. Penney's was the only place left that I know of in this whole city where I could get decent work clothes at a reasonable price. And now they've specifically re-designed the store so that what I'm looking for could be at any of several dozen different little mini-stores? And they've gone upscale? Screw that.

I've literally taken to shopping at thrift stores. I can go in, do my shopping quickly, and walk out with what I actually need. I can afford new, but there's literally no-place that sells new clothes that I'd be caught dead in.
posted by MrVisible at 8:58 PM on November 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


MrVisible: I recommend this to people not infrequently -- find your local farm & ranch stores and take a look at what they have there. You might be surprised at the clothes available and the prices. And the durability of the clothing is good. Name brands, not name brands... Farm & ranch stores are awesome for clothing.
posted by hippybear at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


A surprisingly large amount of my clothing comes from Orchard Supply Hardware.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:03 PM on November 28, 2012


Yep. I hit up the farm and western stores too. Love their stuff and I dig a vintage style yoke shirt. But they are pricey around here.
posted by sourwookie at 9:20 PM on November 28, 2012


CheeseDigestsAll: "There's one big issue that's not discussed. Apple stores require a lot of knowledge and customer support. Buying socks and jeans does not. People aren't going to come to JCP thinking, "Hey someone's going to give me great advice on rebooting my socks.""

Speaking from experience, clothing stores with helpful staff tend to leave my wallet feeling mighty thin afterward, especially if they're not specifically aiming to upsell.
posted by schmod at 9:20 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unboxed a pair of mint 2001 Monkey Wards boat shoes last month, nice leather, great shoe; dollar for dollar as good an investment as anything else. Not really wanting to raid the JCP stores as they collapse; but shirts shoes and slacks don't break down if stored right.

I-pad and JCP probably no better of a mix than Levi and Lee marketing demanding rural stores have flat-screens ( aka MTV noise makers in the 80's / 90's ) on the floor as a mandatory requirement to carry the brands. The local doors literally shut on some rural clothing stores because of advertising/tech/and marketing being mis-used in the wrong envirement.

I don't think JCP has the years left to make the transition that is envisioned, and in middle times; the mainstay customer base is going to get even more outdistanced by tech; and the younger generations are going to move closer and closer to online everything.

He does seem to be doing great things for Macy's and Dillards; sales and stock-price wise.
posted by buzzman at 9:30 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, the revamp has accomplished one thing.

I just bought clothes online for the first time.
posted by MrVisible at 10:24 PM on November 28, 2012


I've taken the chance to swing through the local JC Penney when convenient for about the past year, keeping an eye on the changes. I've been following the story mostly through Daring Fireball, which blogs about it occasionally because of the Apple connection, mostly.

No obvious sub-stores yet, but the place is definitely cleared out quite a bit layout-wise. *Much* less crowded on the walls, on the floor. My favorite time was when I got to eavesdrop on a conversation between two older women, one employee and one customer about the changes. The employee confessed to not knowing very much about the changes herself, they're not told a whole lot of what's in the pipeline, just what's going on day to day, which is hardly surprising from my own experiences in retail.

I hope it'll work out, but then again I'm much more in the customer base for "new jcp" than the older version, so I would.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:49 PM on November 28, 2012


I just want cheap, decent work clothes. Something that says, "I bought these to look decent and presentable at work, but I'm totally not trying to impress anyone at work, because they don't pay me enough to impress anyone."

That's the sort of clothes I buy a lot too, so I'm the man at C&A.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:27 PM on November 28, 2012


The clothing stores catering to tradespeople have the best combination of price/durability/style for in-town casual wear I've seen. Maybe you won't look like you shop the latest trends on the high street but it is really nice to have clothes that are still presentable and comfortable after 50+ washes.

What I remember most about Penneys are the polyester golf pants that I wore to high school. I was a big guy and hated the feel of denim on my skin and there really wasn't much else I could wear. So I'll always hate them, by association, for contributing to my horrible, horrible teenage years.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:18 AM on November 29, 2012


so he's going to create the uncanny valley of small "mom&pop" businesses; creating a pastiche of the downtowns that businesses like JC Penney's cannibalized. i know there's a Bataille joke in there but it's too early & i havent had enough coffee :P
posted by liza at 4:52 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been a pretty reliable JCP customer for years --- my local Sears went into the toilet, and KMart beat them to the bottom --- but this? This mini-mall concept? Crap. Guess I'll be getting even MORE shopping done online than I already do.

Of course, there's also what I read about their upcoming plan to change the way customers pay: credit cards only (JCP cards preferred, of course), absolutely no cash, and those damnable self-checkout machines, no salespeople.

Look, Ron Johnson, what WOULD be good would be 1)salespeople, and even better salespeople who know their merch; 2)neatly organized merch, where we don't have to dig through massive mounds to find the right sizes; 3)aisles wide enough for two people to pass without one of them having to stand aside; 4)I know I'm fat, but so is one heck of a lot of this country --- get some stock in women's sizes above size 12!; and 5)get the sleezy "sexy" bras & thongs out of the store's main entrance.
posted by easily confused at 4:55 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've literally taken to shopping at thrift stores.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Most of my favorite clothes come from thrift stores. You know that tissue paper crap that the big boxes have that falls apart after four wearings? They don't have that at thrift stores, because it all fell apart after four wearings and ended up in the trash. By definition, a secondhand store only stocks items that are made to last.

Of course they have lots of well-made items that are hideous, so you can't just grab a random thing, but if you're willing to look a bit there's gold in them thar racks.
posted by echo target at 7:17 AM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


In the first instance, people assume 'sale! sale! sale!' means a better deal, even if the sale price is higher than the store next door.

In the second, consumers have been trained for years that if X is $10 now, it'll probably go on sale for $7 in a month or two.


That's the strategy behind Penney's current pricing philosophy. Johnson et al. believe that JC Penney's sales tanked, because people always put off buying clothing now, because JC Penney would put it on sale only a short time later. Only, most of the time, people would neglect to come in when the item was actually on sale. Now, they're trying to psychologically retrain their customers to assume that there will be no sales (just "everyday low prices" a la Walmart), so there's no incentive for consumers to wait on buying that next shirt. I can see the logic behind it, but expecting to change consumer psychology in a few months is a major gamble.
posted by jonp72 at 10:14 AM on November 29, 2012


I like where JCP has been going, I’ve checked them out and bought and bought things a couple of times in the last year. I was checking them out to see what they were doing. I was curious after the hubbub over the gay couple ads and wanted to support them. I don’t know that I’d been in one since I was a kid before that.

That Business Insider article seems wrong in almost every way. I guess we’ll see. I don’t know that JCP had a niche before the change, or a future.
posted by bongo_x at 11:04 AM on November 29, 2012


I can see the logic behind it, but expecting to change consumer psychology in a few months is a major gamble.

Although as you point out WalMart has blazed a trail there, and I expect there is some demographic overlap.

It would be kind of cool if no sales became a signifier for low prices.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:55 AM on November 29, 2012


I bought a $250 Italian made pristine dress shirt (Zegna) at a thrift store earlier today for $9.

I also snagged a pair of Johnston & Murphy dress shoes in great shape, also made in Italy that probably sold for $300-$400 new, going by what their few made in Italy shoes are selling for on Nordstrom's website right now. These can be resoled and last forever basically.

All the men's midrange brands you could want are plentiful, Land's End, Banana Republic, LL Bean, Eddie Bauer. If you're younger there's tons of Abercrombie, American Eagle. You just have to find the thrift stores in the nicer areas of your city and do a rotation for a couple of weeks.

The only reason to buy clothes new, imo, is to save time. I'm pretty busy myself, so I'm sympathetic, but you pay a steep price.
posted by imabanana at 1:57 PM on November 29, 2012


You also have to find a high end thrift store with a decent selection of men's items. The ones I've seen have a small section of overpriced men's stuff in the back.
posted by smackfu at 1:59 PM on November 29, 2012


The only reason to buy clothes new, imo, is to save time.

Well also to find clothes for women that aren't in horrible shape or for tiny people only. Not many women's clothes larger than a medium seem to make it to the thrift stores.

Men's clothes are a better gamble, if only because colors, styles etc. don't change that much for suits and shirts.

If I could sew, I might haunt thrift stores for things to alter, but as it is I mostly go there to pick up frames, kitsch items, Halloween costume parts, or t-shirts.
posted by emjaybee at 2:08 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I've got nothing against thrift stores. I've shopped in them for decades.

It's just weird that, now that I can afford not to shop there, they're the only place that I actually enjoy shopping. The upscale-bistro thing gives me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by MrVisible at 9:30 PM on November 30, 2012


Well, the Penney's brand is doing okay right now according to a major survey... at least compared to Macy's which is reportedly suffering from "Trump Backlash" (which The Donald profanely denies). That's one mistake Penney's is definitely NOT making.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:22 PM on November 30, 2012


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