“A Truly Depressing Visit to JCPenney”

Nobody was ever driven into bankruptcy by unreliable Wi-Fi, but that’s the Ron Johnson Era in a nutshell. Instead of building on what the people who like JCPenney liked about JCPenney, he undertook a series of essentially arbitrary changes that alienated some without drawing anyone new in.

I like JCPenney. It’s one of the only major department stores that sells good-looking and well-made clothes in sizes I can wear. But it was that way before Ron Johnson came in, and he hasn’t done anything to improve the one department I care about since he’s been there.

One of Johnson’s big changes, and the one he’s being raked over the coals for, is the “no discounting” policy that has removed coupons from the equation. As a long-time JCPenney customer, I counted on those coupons to take percentages off purchases I made. Now I just wait for clearance sales and seasonal markdowns instead. That translates into fewer trips to JCPenney that we used to do. The balance sheets speak for themselves: many other customers like me simply aren’t spending money at JCPenney like they were before, and new customers who like the other changes that Johnson has made aren’t replacing them fast enough.

I think Ron Johnson should just admit this isn’t working and move on to something better. Remember, he is heavily invested in seeing JCPenney succeed.

  • chjode

    Since they jacked up their prices and ended coupons and sales, I’ve stopped shopping there. So, now, instead letting me use a 15% coupon and getting 85% of my money, they get 0%. Nicely done, JCP.

    • Peter Cohen

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one.

    • Solublepeter

      But I thought the idea was to reduce prices, so you didn’t need to faff about with the coupon system?

  • I will never abandon the store where Mister Miyagi got a belt.


  • Why shop at any “store” when you can shop online?

    • Peter Cohen

      For the reason I stated above. I’m a big guy with a long torso, and “off the rack” clothes don’t often fit me correctly. It’s very, very hard for me to buy clothes without trying them on first to make sure I’m not going to look ridiculous, and JCPenney is one of the few retailers that carries stylish, well-made clothes in sizes I can wear.

      I’ll admit that I’m an edge case, but I’m far from alone – many people, men and women alike, prefer to buy some things in person rather than buying it online. Because returning things online is a PITA.

  • One of Johnson’s supposed bragging points about pricing suggested to me that “no discounting” would somehow be reflected in perhaps slightly lower everyday retail prices of goods at JCP. May I assume that hasn’t happened, Peter?

    • Peter Cohen

      It may have but it’s removed an important customer incentive: the perception of value. I associate the JCPenney brand with quality merchandise at a bargain price. Once that’s ingrained into my head, as it has been since I was a kid, it’s very hard to change that thinking.

      I can correlate my decision not to shop at JCPenney with Johnson’s change in pricing structure. One should never extrapolate a single anecdote as data, but it’s hard to look at JCPenney’s latest earnings report and not conclude that people aren’t buying in droves.

      • I certainly understand the perception issue. I’d still want to try to assess if prices had dropped overall, especially considered against the occasionally intrusive incentive to await a particular sale or keep track of an expiring coupon. I don’t like having to wait until a season’s over to buy, say, inexpensive polo shirts.

        If Johnson’s made shopping for certain items more consistent than, say, Target, I’d be curious to see what he’s accomplished.

  • imthedude

    Wife loved the new Penney’s, shopped there much more than ever before. The general public just doesn’t get it; they like to pretend they’re saving money rather than just seeing a lower price. Oh well.

  • Personally, I never wait for sales and effectively never use coupons. So the “no discounting” policy works for me. But, obviously, most people feel otherwise. Plus I live in a rural area and JC Penney is the only department store around.

  • CL

    I do miss the catalogue – I liked to look at a variety of ideas before going to shop in store or on-line – now I have to go online to look. I no longer pay much attention to the mailers received by JCP. I also find it annoying that the ‘Rewards’ coupons expire so quickly – If I make major purchases, I don’t like to feel pressured to buy again to avoid losing the ‘reward’ – 6 mos or a year would be more realistic!