January 16, 2013

Whatever Happened to JC Penney?

Once upon a time, JC Penney was a cool company.

They had the biggest and coolest catalog (I don't think they have it anymore, do they?), which I loved to sit down and spend an afternoon with.

They had an interesting image, an appropriate logo and a good variety of merchandise. Some of their stuff was sometimes expensive but overall worth it.

Then everything changed.

About a few years ago, I believe following some major changes in management, JC Penney started to go downhill. And really fast, too.

The first change was some kind of sale elimination, where they decided not to use the word sale and instead used "month long savings". Well, of course that didn't work out (what were they thinking?!?), and now they are backtracking and using the word sale again. In the process, they lost tons of money to other companies that used the word sale and even the word (gasp!) clearance without any problem, nor limitations.

Then they changed the logo (why?), which to me was perfect the way it was, and went from this

to this

It looks like there is a whole lot of empty, unnecessary space, in this new logo, doesn't it? I understand they were trying to give it an "American" feel, but it almost looks like a flag, and I think they missed the mark completely. 

And speaking of empty, that's how their newer, 12 pages catalogs looks like to me. They went from pages like this one (from the 70s? 80s?), with plenty of images and reading material:

To something sterile and uninspiring like this one:

When I needed to look at dishes last week, I stopped by jcp, also because I had a $50 gift certificate. I hadn't been in a jcp store in a while and the feeling I got in there was sadness. 

Just like the logo, there was so much emptiness in the store, with little merchandise distributed over a big area. And so, while the kitchen department spread over a huge area, I was only able to find maybe 5 different sets of dishes total. Five. Of which, some sets had been opened from the boxes and displayed on counters, except now they were missing some pieces, so they were selling them at a discount. But it didn't matter, because there were no full sets. My only option was to mix and match them, but I'm a matchy-matchy kind of girl. I left jcp that day with a bad taste in my mouth. And some sadness. And my $50 gift certificate still untouched.

The guy behind this makeover is someone big, who came over jcp from another great company, Apple. The problem, I think, is that what worked for Apple, it won't necessarily work for jcp. Or any other similar company. 

Apple is Apple, and it doesn't mean that the clean, white, ultramodern sleek look will work for a clothing/bedding/home store. Quite the opposite, I don't think it's a look for it at all.

JC Penney needs to be cozier, and sleeker, yes, but in a cool, old fashioned way. Then it will need some ruffles, more patterns and a bunch of new copywriters. 

It needs to look back a little and find its roots, instead of looking way ahead and risking losing itself completely.


Daisy said...

I had thought JC Penny disappeared altogether. "Months long saving?" That was creative. Thanks for the info, I had wondered what happened to JCP.


NY Spender said...

I have a $50 gift certificate, and I was looking online for something... anything... to buy.

And I couldn't find anything at all that I liked. Nothing.

So sad.