Paul McAleer

The risk of jcpenney

Paul McAleer

Overheard, as one woman spoke to someone on the phone.

"Oh yeah, I'm at Penney's. They changed everything. They took away everything you love" - no kidding, she said love - "and got rid of it. [pause] Yeah, they just have things online now. They got rid of a lot. You would hate it."

As noted here before and to anyone who will listen, jcp has made a strong push in men's clothing to the point where I consider them in a standard rotation of retailers and, often, the first one I'll consider. No small feat this, as just a couple of years ago I wrote them off.

But now, as their slooooow recovery (hopefully!) continues it's clear that they alienated their customers before embracing new ones. That is a hell of a risky move. There was no real transition, no changeover time... just poof, gone. The upside is that you may attract new customers, and that is exactly what worked for me. The downside is that you may piss people off quite easily. You may lose customers for life.

I can only imagine that if all of the stuff I love about jcp was gone tomorrow, I too would be upset. (But then I'd just go buy stuff from Uniqlo or Target or whatever.)

Did jcp value its old customer base? By the looks of it, no. As John Gruber has been pointing out lately, customers are not created equal. Is jcp better off for someone like me shopping there, versus someone who only comes out for sales and buys $3 pants? Maybe. But I don't know if there are enough people who are willing to actually do this.

Retail is cutthroat. jcp is in the middle of a giant risk. I hope they come out strong and stable but, if they don't, the clearance sales will be epic.