JCPenney Giving Up On The Whole “No More Sales” Thing

Remember in January when JCPenney had that revolutionary idea — touted in a series of not at all grating ads — of getting rid of “sales,” and just lowering everyday prices by around 40%? Apparently, the shoppers of the world didn’t get the message and JCP is bringing back the “S word.”

While the retail chain did actually lower its prices — a fact confirmed for the most part by our cohorts at ShopSmart — it looks like bargain-hunters didn’t come running, perhaps because they weren’t being reminded of specific discounts via the coupon mailers JCP decried in its ad campaign.

“It’s just been kind of confusing,” CEO Ron Johnson explained at an investor conference earlier today about the transition from “sales sales sales” to “everyday low prices.”

That confusion has translated into a drop in same-store sales of 18.9% in the first three months of the “no more sales” era.

So now the retailer will get rid of the “month-long value” tag it had been using for shorter-term discounts.

“We’re moving away from the word ‘month-long value’ because no one really understood that, to calling it what we intended to do, a sale,” said Johnson.

Former Apple exec Johnson says JCP still intends to begin remodeling stores in August. The goal is to break the department store into something resembling a group of connected shops.

“Even if you redesign your stores, you still have to drive traffic to stores,” Alexander Chernev, associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, tells Reuters.

Penney tries to clarify message on pricing change [Reuters]


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  1. Buckus says:

    I still don’t shop at Kohl’s. They’re the worst bunch.

    • j2.718ff says:

      Last time I was at Khols, I found a pair of pants for $50. I was only planning to spend $25, but then I found this $50 pair, marked down from $150. I could save so much money! (Specifically, $100, and all I’d have to do is spend $25 more than I was planning on)

      That said, I’ve actually found some good items at Kohls. The important part is to never pay attention to the “original” price.

    • Stickdude says:

      I like tacos

    • zandar says:

      I bought a pair of too expensive pants there that was in a 50% off section. Which was closer to what they should have been priced anyway.

      At the register, they said you got 50% off the SECOND PAIR that you buy. This was NOT what the sale sign said at all.

      Eff Kohl’s. They mark shit way up and then put it on “sale” for normal pre-sale prices. Then they mislead you with the signage.I am done.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    But how can they do this? They already admitted that their clothing was overpriced and the sales were just gimmicks. How will they spin this now since it’s already been through several spin cycles?

    • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

      The same way companies who employ the shrink ray on their products act upon finding out people are no longer buying their product after discovering the dupe – go back to the original form and announce in HUGE letters “NOW WITH MORE PRODUCT!!!!”

      They couldn’t care less what they “admitted” to. I firmly believe corporate memories last about 2 nanoseconds, and they expect the same from their customers.

    • Raanne says:

      They didn’t say they were raising their prices. What they do now is have 3 price points:
      – regular (18% lower than the previous “regular)
      – “month long value” (a sale that lasts for 1 month long)
      – clearance

      They are just renaming the “month long value” so people understand that it is a sale, that truly is less than the regular price, and will go back up at the end of the month.

  3. dush says:

    That must be an angry One Million Mom in the picture.

  4. We Have a Piper Down says:

    Eh, I went in there the other day to buy a Green Lantern shirt (I figured buying one at JCP was the best way to piss off any number of the one million moms) and it was on one of those month long deals and was $7. That’s not bad at all. However, their new marketing push is creepy. I get emails from them with ominous titles like, “Watch It” or just plain stupid titles like, “Who’s Your Daddy?” I unsubscribed because of them and now I don’t even know what’s on “sale” anymore.

    • Golfer Bob says:

      So which of these options would have appealed to you:

      1) Buy the shirt at the higher mark up price of $19.00
      a. Discover shirt is later on sale, cheaper, be pissed
      b. Discover shirt is later on sale, cheaper, return to store for price adjustment (within adjustment window)

      2) Wait for the $19.00 shirt to go on sale, incrementally to $15, $11 and maybe $9, be optimistic that size / stock will be available when you decide to purchase

      3) Buy the shirt now for the fair / value price of $7

      I’ve been digging option 3, but I think more marketing from JCP could have helped explain the concept. It seems they went from the screaming OMM too many sales idea to the fair / square / value pricing red / white / blue model, admittedly confusing.

      I simply compared the prices of items that I purchased regularly prior to the conversion, agreed the prices were generally significantly lower and assumed they wouldn’t be much lower or on sale or found them cheaper elsewhere and acted accordingly.

      Worked for me.

      • JJFIII says:

        You have no clue about the concept of VALUE. Price is what you pay, value is what you get. For example, I go to a store and the item is originally priced at $20. I get it on sale for $15. I paid $15, but the true value that was on the product was $20. Consumers have said REPEATEDLY, that is what they want. If the price is $15, you have told the consumer that is all that product is valued at. If I pay $15 for something that YOU value at $15 you ave not given me a deal, BUT if you give me an item you value at $20 for $25 you have given me a deal.

        The fact that JCP CEO does not understand that concept is scary to me, since any entry level marketing person should know that. People will always SAY they want lower prices not sales, but their actions do not reflect that. It is the same thing with healthier food. They SAY they want it, but if you go to a restaurant people talk healthy but order unhealthy. A Big Mac with large fries and a diet coke is not healthy because the coke was diet.

        • dwtomek says:

          I would argue that this shift in policy resulting in a sales decline is proof that the american public at large are the ones who do not understand value. Just because there was a ludicrously inflated “original price”, a direct increase of the value a customer puts on an item should not be guaranteed. Again, that this policy failed indicates that the general consumer values products at what they are told they are valued at. Anyways, you started out speaking like you understood the concept of value, and then you trailed off into crazy land. Perhaps those marketing techniques are working on you.

    • Charmander says:

      I actually liked the new JCPenney’s. I’ve shopped there more in the last 6 months than I have in the past 2 years. I still find really good deals there.

      Too bad they have to change. I hated those stupid coupons and 2-day only sales. Oh well. They gotta do what they gotta do. I’ll still shop there, though.

  5. vliam says:

    Called it in the January thread…

    I fully understand the apparent motivation behind this move. There are large chunks of these stores that generate no traffic unless there are 40% off signs on everything, most of the domestics areas fall into this pattern. So, conceptionally, this seems like a good idea. If the area only gets shopped on 40%-off weeks, why not make every week a 40%-off week?

    Because shoppers have a short attention span and will quickly lose interest if you don’t continually tempt them with the promise of exceptional values. It’s not exceptional if it’s the norm.

    I get it but… he’s wrong.

    The persons in charge of directing the ship rarely have the experience to fully appreciate the ramifications of their decisions.
    Talk to the people on the lowest rank of the food-chain; they’ll tell you when you are doing something stupid.

    • CTrees says:

      Interestingly, JCPenny’s lower price push got me through the door a lot more often than ever before. However, I only found out about the move because I read The Consumerist. So… yeah.

    • elangomatt says:

      I called it back in january too…

      “For their sake, I hope that they don’t completely cut out publishing circulars though. A big box retailer I used to work at tried to reduce costs by more than halving the size of the weekly ad and then the number of customers coming in plummeted.”

      And look at that, they quit sending as many sale fliers out, and wow their sales plummeted!! I just don’t see how JCPenney didn’t see this result coming from a mile away.

      • redskull says:

        As someone who works in the marketing field, I’ve seen this too many times to count. The first thing companies always do during slowdowns is slash advertising. Yes, it saves money in the short term, but then everyone forgets you exist and stops coming in. By the time they wise up and start advertising again it’s too late. Happens over and over and over and…

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I don’t shop for clothes often but maybe once a year — MAYBE. I went into JC two months ago, on my own, and was floored by the cheap prices. Instead of buying a pair of jeans I ended up with $550.00 of clothing priced at $350.00 after sale prices. I used my tax money to buy all new summer shirts, a pair of jeans, even $60.00 lined-plaid shirts for the winter were priced cheap. I really couldn’t believe how good a deal I got. Now I am set for at least,,say,,,five years. lol

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    That’s sad, I was looking forward to a retailer actually doing sales like they should be done.

    I think they needed to keep the marketing blitz strong even months after, not just up to the reveal, in order for this to work. And how hard would it have been to explain it in non-marketing speak on a commercial? Just speak straight english with no gimmick.

    • MMD says:

      Exactly. They haven’t given the new scheme enough time. And now they’re changing again, which will only confuse the issue further.

  7. Marlin says:

    This is what happens when you under estimate the stupidity of your consumer.

    Just look at how many things on eBay sell for more used than you can buy new. People always jump at a “sale” or “coupon” even if its not.

    • dolemite says:

      Don’t forget the fact many of them will bid a used item up over new retail price just so they win the auction and get a “deal”.

  8. Golfer Bob says:

    Several of the styles of pants that I buy at JCP usually cost 75 – 125 dollars before the conversion. After the conversion, they ran about 35 – 55 dollars (=/-). Which is about what they cost when on sale pre-conversion. Post conversion, the everyday prices were lower and it made sense to me. Other items that I routinely purchase also appeared to have the post conversion reduction, but others still seemed high (like shoes and underwear).

    So are we now going back to the original everyday high markup prices and then have to wait for the random sale to get the lower prices? Wow. Consumers really are stupid.

  9. Geekybiker says:

    Unsurprising. Clothing retailers have spent a long time training us that clothing is a rip off if its not on sale. Seriously who ever pays full price on clothes?

  10. ARP says:

    It was a good concept, but our lizard brains can’t figure this out. We naturally gravitate towards sales, even when they are less of a value. Most people are more likely to buy, “SALE T-shirts originally $19, now, $12,” than “T-shirts- $11” for the same item.

    • Marlin says:

      What are you talking about, you can get a $19 shirt for only $12. That one for $11 must be junk no way its as good as the $19 shirt.

      /average consumer.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      Can you please stop using that idiotic term? We’re not lizards. We have never been lizards. We have no “lizard brain.” What the hell is that even supposed to mean?

      • humperdinck says:
      • jebarringer says:

        It’s the part of our brain that’s like the brain of lizards. Seriously, it’s not that hard of a concept. Would you rather it be called “primitive mammal-like reptile brain”?

      • ARP says:

        I’ve never seen someone so upset at use this type of metaphor. We evolved from a common ancestor (if you refute this part, then I’ll understand the reason for your comment) and that’s why I’m referring to it as a metaphor for our more instinctual remnants of our thinking. Or, do we not have instincts?

        PS- if you’re interested in the mysterious ways of how we think, I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”

  11. mysterydate98 says:

    I worked in a JCP many years ago and always found their merchandise to be of very good to excellent quality (and you definitely paid for it). Having never been back in probably the past 8 years, I recently walked through one as a shortcut to get to another store at the mall. I briefly looked at their offerings and found the prices at first to be great….then later realized that nothing looked ‘new’, almost like they had produced knock-offs of last years styles. As they are now, they seem to be stuck somewhere between Kohl’s and WalMart and that’s not really a good place to be.

  12. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    “Former Apple exec Johnson …”

    That might be part of the problem right there; isn’t this standard Apple operating procedure? No sales, here’s the price, take it or leave it.

    • Buckus says:

      Yes, but unlike JcP, Apple has people lined up out the door to throw money at them without asking any questions.

    • skakh says:

      Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, people know Apple and JC Penney is no Apple.

  13. eezy-peezy says:

    Reminds me of a furniture store in the town I grew up in, their motto was “42 years without a sale”. Always good for a chuckle.

  14. CrazyEyed says:

    Just kind of goes to show how quickly companies jump ship the moment something doesn’t go their way with their marketing campaign. JCP really should wait it out and see if there is a bigger residual impact. I actually think their No Sale campaign was a good one, reminding us all that good prices should exist everyday instead of preying on impulsive buyers with deals that aren’t really deals. If more companies went the no sale route, it would actually help keep prices low for greater lengths of time across many brands or products.

    • eezy-peezy says:

      remember 7-UP’s pledge on caffeine – “Never had it, never will”. Caused sales to go DOWN, then they started adding caffeine.

  15. AllanG54 says:

    My wife used to be an avid Penney’s shopper but quit going there as soon as this new program was implemented. Even if the prices were somewhat lower she felt she didn’t have a reason to go there for unneeded items as when she got a coupon for $10 off $50. Then she’d go and spend and it was tough trying to remember that the better prices were on the first Friday of the month and the best prices were on the third Friday of the month. Was very convoluted and who would bother to keep track of those days. She just started going to other clothiers.

  16. ansjc09 says:

    I have been looking at a top at Penney’s for about 3 months and it has been $20 “everyday value” the entire time and no “best price” sticker yet. I don’t want to spend $20 on the top, so I’ll keep waiting for the “best price” aka clearance. Call clearances and sales whatever you want, I’m still going to shop like the cheapskate I am. Their “best prices” are still pretty good deals; you just have to shop smartly.
    When Penney’s sent the $10 off $25 purchase coupons and 20% coupons in the mail, I would go into the store because it reminded to go there. Without the incentive or having a plan to go shopping for X, I go to the mall (and clothes shopping, in general) less right now.

  17. Golfer Bob says:

    I only wish that Restoration Hardware would adopt a JCP model of fair and square pricing. I have my eye on a patio set and I hope the price drops below 18K before July 4th.

  18. Chmeeee says:

    I used to think that a fixed price business model should be so much better than a crazy variable one like Macy’s has, but after seeing what happens when you apply that to car dealerships I realized I was wrong.

    I always hated the traditional haggle environment you find at most car dealers, because it constantly feels like a war to see who can rip the other side off the most. What I realized though is that the haggle environment is better for the good bargain shopper, because you’re subsidized by the people who don’t know/don’t care how to get the good deal. For every customer who comes in an negotiates $3k off sticker, there’s another who pays full price, pays the markup on the interest rate, and buys all the ridiculous protection plans. If you even that process out, then I the bargain hunter end up paying $2k more for the car since they’re not making a stupid profit off the moron behind me.

    The same applies to these stores. Bargain hunters show up when there’s a big sale and buy the items with the good discount, adding the superextrasavingsWOW-card for additional 20% off plus 10% more for using their card. Somebody else walks in Tuesday and could care less what they pay, walking out paying $50 for the same shirt I paid $15 for during the 1 day sale with 2 day preview.

    • josephpr says:

      I actually bought two new vehicles from a dealer who had “no haggling”. The first time, I realized that it took three visits to the other dealer to get to the “no haggle” price. I realized that my time was worth something, so next time, I went to the same dealer. Picked it out and was done within an hour.
      But the reason this never caught on, according to one article I read, was that no matter what, people felt they should get a “special discount” because they were veterans, teachers, old, young, etc. etc.

      • MylesMDT says:

        Any car dealership that offers “No Haggling” is a sucker’s bet. There is always room for haggling on any motor vehicle purchase. If you can’t or won’t bargain, you are a sucker.

  19. Rick Sphinx says:

    It didn’t work because it was too confusing. I didn’t know what the best day would be to go there anymore. They had a daily value, everyday value, and month long values etc. If they just had ‘everday low prices’, it wouldn’t matter which day I went. Besides the days of going to the store on the stores schedule are gone. I shop on my schedule, and if you price is not right when I want it, I’ll go where it is right, even the internet. Now a days, you just scan a UPC in the store with your smartphone to see if the price is good or not.
    When I had a JCP Credit Card. They used to send out a 25% off anything that day savings card (twice per year), I would go down and stock up. Then the “exclusions” started. It finally got to where so many things were excluded, I just stopped shopping there all together. I’m wasn’t going to pick something out, then read a list of 50 items I can’t buy with coupon, just to find out I wasted my time…. oh you can’t get that at 25% off, swindled again. Just made me feel like the coupon was just for all the crap they want to get rid of, that no-one wants anyway.

  20. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    Maybe the poor sales have to do with the fact that JCP is just a more expensive, less trendy, version of target? Oh…and the fact that they decided to piss off every conservative Mother in the country. You know, the adult women who make the majority of all household purchasing decisions for every member of their family? Yeah, those women.

    Next time JCP “rebrands” they should try to figure out who their target demographic is. (Hint: It probably isn’t fashion forward young liberal people. It is probably middle income to wealthy conservative housewife types.)

    • HomerSimpson says:

      Translated: “QUIT SPREADING TEH GHEY!!!!”

    • JJFIII says:

      Except the sales decrease is for a period PRIOR to the million bitches and their stupidity, but don;t let facts get in the way of you story.

  21. hexx says:

    I still hate JCP’s new logo.

  22. PLATTWORX says:

    I have been in several JCPenney stores since the change… ghost towns. This while Macy’s reports sales gains and Kohl’s continues to send out coupons like a drug.

    It has failed. What they SHOULD have done is remodel the stores and change the logo while SLOWLY moving away from couponing and discounts. They had it all backwards. Now we have the same dull tired stores with no customers.

    I spent a ton with JCPenney before the change (we’re talking home goods, furniture, etc.) every dime of that money is now being spent at Kohl’s or Macy’s because I can do better there. Two stores I barely shopped before.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Yeah its a ghost town here too, but the reason I shop is to get a good deal. When I know I am going to walk into the store and everything is going to be regular price that does not do anything to get me in the store. I don’t shop at Walmart much because I know exactly what I am going to get if I go in there, they don’t have any good clearance deals. I will however visit my Target store frequently because they put stuff on clearance. If I know there is a possibility I might find a shirt I like on clearance for $3-5 then I will go into the store to look for one, while I am in the store I might find that one article of clothing I absolutely cannot live without thus I have to buy it. Thus JCP’s clearance gets me into the store at least.

  23. Outrun1986 says:

    The problem is that we don’t know what the price was on every item before they started this discount so we can’t compare prices between the two methods and 2 prices. There is only the now price. When there is a sale price we can compare the before price to the sale price and therefore judge the value of the item by that. Also clothing retailers really have trained us to buy items only if they are on sale since 99% of clothing sold in stores is overpriced purposely so they can put it on sale so we are conditioned to the sale tags and coupon discounts.

  24. quail says:

    Remember the days when MSRP for anything was some fanciful ‘idea’ that never made it into the retail world where the consumer had to deal with it? Today all retailers start by pushing the clothing at the MSRP and then a week later have a sale at 60% off, which would have been the items normal price if retail practices from 20 years ago was still in place. Why do all retailers have such crazy pricing?

    Big box retailers, you’ve trained this consumer to not believe your pricing.

  25. zz9 says:

    Yep, a retailer I worked for tried this about ten years ago. Sales slumped. Consumers believe “50% OFF!” signs even when the item in question was the same price a few weeks ago when the store doubled the price for a couple off weeks so they could “slash” it by 50% now.
    Another place I worked at has products very similar in spec, but with a few differences, that just swap price ever few weeks. Today it will be A that is 50% off while B is full price. Next week A will go back up to full price while B is on “offer”. The week after that they swap again.
    Turns out consumers really are gullible idiots. Who knew.

  26. menty666 says:

    I miss “blue light specials”

  27. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Penny’s has great prices. I also very much like their support of gays. I wish I could find something to like there. I go in there every time I need something they have b/c of their refusal to back down against 1 million moms. But, the quality is not so good, so I end up buying elsewhere.

  28. Sollus says:

    I’d almost venture to guess that their marketing strategy was terrible. Not only did the commercials make zero sense they looked exactly like a Target ad.

  29. Yeah Right says:

    I used to like JCP, but I did a walk through recently and felt the massive amounts of polyester and nylon to be overwhelming.

  30. aquanetta says:

    Square my ass. They charge twice as much for petite sizing for the same dress. $20 misses, $45 plus size, $40 petite. Why would you charge twice the price for less fabric?

  31. TVGenius says:

    I love the new ‘gimmick’, and I’m actually buying MORE stuff there now because I know I can strategically make two or so trips a month, and don’t have to worry about missing stuff on sale or nothing changing for weeks on end (I do most of my buying in Big & Tall, where ‘SALE’ used to be a rare occurrence).

  32. FedoraFetish says:

    JCP had a brilliant idea of actually telling you exactly what your cost would be, instead of laying out random ‘% off’ signs around the store and then picking your actual cost out of a hat. I went to Penneys before they did this, and there was a great sweater that said it was $46 with no visible sale sign around. I almost didn’t buy it because it was so overpriced, and then when I got to the register they charged me only 10 bucks. I guess what they lose in sales to intelligent people they make up for in sales to doofuses who are numerically challenged.

  33. zandar says:

    “It’s just been kind of confusing,”

    No shit.

  34. Anna Kossua says:

    Meh. I almost never shop there, and haven’t been there for a few years now. Their clothes are kinda frumpy, and when they built a new store in my town several years ago, it literally stunk! They never got rid of the odor.

    I just don’t get how they think people don’t like sales. Coupon-based sales can be time-consuming for customers, but regular circulars or TV spots letting people know what deals are going on are just fine.

    Maybe they should get a new name and go for the more “cool” shopping experience not unlike Target’s. Put a bit more swagger into it.

    They do get 100 points for not backing down against the Million Moms!

  35. do-it-myself says:

    I had no problem understanding this system. They STILL had sales although they didn’t specifically use that word. The price displays was read something like this: “$15 June Price”, then below it in small print would have “$25 everyday price.” Apparently people can’t translate English to English.