Early in 2012, the retailer introduced a new pricing strategy (which included scheduled discounts and a “best price” instead of clearance), a revamped return policy and dropped coupons.
In the months since, J.C. Penney also introduced “The Shops.” A shop refers to each brand’s section of the store. It’s the same idea other department stores follow: sections for national brands, sections for the store’s brand, etc. However, J.C. Penney incorporates a larger display for the merchandise. Through 2015, most J.C. Penney stores will host about 40 shops in each store.
By fall of 2012, though, J.C. Penney did away with the new pricing strategy. Clearance prices returned, but there were still no sales or coupons.
Two months later, we got a hint that things could be changing yet again: There was a Black Friday sale.
Fast forward to this past January, when J.C. Penney announced that it will be bringing back sales.
According to Kate Coultas, a J.C. Penney spokeswoman, “We’ll provide additional savings on popular items that are important during key events and holidays including Valentine’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Back-to-School, Holiday (this includes Black Friday), etc. and we will also participate [in] vendor promotions.”
Unfortunately for those shoppers who were also hoping to see the return of coupons, Coultas said it’s not happening.
However, she said the retailer “will continue to provide $10 gifts to our jcp rewards members as part of our customer loyalty program.”
Aside from clearance pricing and sales, the merchandise at J.C. Penney is still marked at an everyday low price cheaper than what we saw before the store began its transformation.
The store hopes that customers will recognize and take advantage of these lower prices and not feel pressured to wait for sales. But so far that strategy has been a miss, as the store’s sale numbers have plummeted.
In an effort to call more attention to its low prices, J.C. Penney has started printing price comparisons on merchandise tags and in ads. These price comparisons come in three different categories: the elsewhere price or suggested retail price (used on national brands), MSRP (used on private brands) and an appraisal value (used on fine jewelry).
The website states that the elsewhere price “reflects a comparison to the price of that or a comparable item found online or in-store at national specialty, home, or online-only retailers during the last 90 days.”
The MSRP is a suggested price provided by suppliers.
Appraisal values get a little more complicated. The site describes this number as “the total Estimated Retail Replacement Value for Insurance Purposes provided to jcp by the International Gemological Information Division of International Gemological Institute, Inc. as of the date of appraisal based on a representative sample of the production run for such item.”
The appraisal may not have occurred within the last 90 days, and it’s based on an average of market prices, labor, materials, comparable sales data and more.
According to jcpenney.com, each comparison is rounded down to the nearest dollar.
When I brought up the most recent changes on the Shoptimist blog, many readers responded that they were still disappointed. Many also brought up a lack of customer service in stores.
Coultas said that the store does plan to move to a self-checkout system in the future, but shoppers should actually be seeing more employees on the floor because J.C. Penney has launched its mobile checkout option.
“By the end of our first quarter, every team member on the floor will have a iPod Touch device, allowing them to be free from being behind the register (we will still have traditional registers) and out on the floor assisting customers and checking them out,” she wrote in an email.
So what else can shoppers expect to see in stores this year?
Sarah Holland, another J.C. Penney spokeswoman, said that Valley View and Tanglewood malls will be getting the Joe Fresh shop, a Canadian apparel brand.
Other shops that have arrived or will be arriving in 2013 are L’Amour Nanette Lepore, Pearl by Georgina Chapman of Marchesa, William Rast and LULU by Lulu Guiness.
Holland also added, “We are opening new shops with Martha Stewart, Jonathan Adler, Michael Graves and Sir Terrance Conran this spring for the launch of our home floor makeover.”
However, she could not comment on where exactly these shops will open. There was also no news about a Sephora opening in any Roanoke or New River Valley J.C. Penney locations.
J.C. Penney salons will continue to run special promotions in stores. In the past we’ve seen offers like free haircuts for kids and breast cancer survivors. Throughout the month of March customers can get a free eyebrow shaping with any salon service of $32 or more.
Join the debate
Will these changes encourage you to shop at J.C. Penney?
Here are some excerpts from comments that blog readers shared:
Adriad wrote: “Probably the one strategy jcp is doing that I agree with is their new pricing. They lowered their prices in the store last year to the price that they would have been WITH the stupid coupons they used to do, and still give you credit card holders your reward coupons on top of that.”
LadyA wrote: “I used to go to Penneys frequently and now, I get so disgusted with the stores and their new changes that I just leave and shop elsewhere. I have had success with ordering online though and the curtains I got were good. But it’s sad to see another department store doing something absolutely stupid at a time of such uncertainty.”
RM wrote: “Penney’s needs to 1. Fire the guy who started all of this. 2. Go back to the way they were before it all started. 3. Have a big ad campaign apologizing for such a screw up and asking their customers to return.”
Kathy E Nemeth wrote: “Just wish they would make up their minds. I have been disappointed with the last change let alone another one. … Hope they can rebound. I really like their merchandise but knowing what price I am going to pay and then getting to the register is another thing. Prices are very confusing.”