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A Penney Saved

JennyWhen was the last time you heard some really interesting retail strategies from a department store?
     The current retail era is one where local and regional department stores have largely been swallowed up by a handful of major conglomerates, and sameness seems to rule at all of them, whether you are shopping in Herald Square or on Michigan Avenue or at a local mall in Anytown, USA.
     But JCPenney, one of the retail stalwarts of my parents' generation, is about to implement some sweeping changes that, according to a Forbes magazine columnist, will make it the "most interesting retailer of 2012."
     At the helm of JCP now, of course, is a former Apple retail executive. And everyone knows that Apple has mastered its store concept by coming at it from a completely innovative place. Now CEO Ron Johnson is bringing some of that innovation to probably the most tried-and-true of retail business models out there.
     Among the changes the corporation will be implementing (as reported by my colleagues at Home Textiles Today): Simplifying pricing, dramatically whittling down promotions and rolling out "shops-in-shops."
     The pricing is particularly interesting. Again, picking up on reportage from Home Textiles Today's editors, who covered the strategic outline meetings in late January, "72% of the company's merchandise is sold at 50% off or better.
     "By way of example, (Johnson) pointed to a core Penney towel that now retails at $10, but actually moves out the door, once all the discounts are taken into consideration, at $3.30. Its new everyday price will be $4," he said.
     Wow. That's pretty aggressive, and almost unimaginable for those of us who are so used to shopping the current department store model.
     In terms of promotions, month-long specials will be offered, and so-called "best prices" - a way to clear out merchandise - will only be offered on the first and third Friday of each month.
     JCPenney has a long way to go before it can re-establish itself at the top of the department store game. But it sure is going to be interesting to observe from a retail watchers perspective.
     I suppose the bigger lesson to the Home Accents Today readers is this: If this behemoth, multi-billion dollar operation can reinvent itself so aggressively, what's holding you back? Smaller retailers have the great ability to be much more nimble and agile as things change than extremely large-scale operations.
     Are you using that advantage? The world is changing. Don't get left behind.

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