JC Penney, The Promised Land For Shoplifters

Shoppers still haven’t started to swarm back into JC Penney stores, but do you know who really loved the place in recent months? Shoplifters. Back in 2012, the chain decided to switch to a new radio tag system, ditching its older anti-theft tags. They abandoned the transition partway through, instead leaving older inventory untagged and ripe for stealing.

In theory, the change was supposed to save money and labor, making the stores more efficient. RFID tags are useful for both theft prevention and inventory, allowing remote inventory management and other wonderfulness. It was expensive, though, and Penney dumped the project back in January, even before doomed turnaround CEO Ron Johnson was able to finish the project.

Of course, stores had already taken the older anti-theft sensors off items in preparation for the new system. Why? The Wall Street Journal speculates that the two systems interfered with each other, so the old tags had to go before the switch. The never-completed switch.

The shoplifting frenzy hurt the company’s profit margin by one whole percentage point last quarter. Well, “profit margin” is a misleading term: the company lost half a billion dollars last quarter.

How J.C. Penney Became a Shoplifter’s Paradise [WSJ]
Rise in Shoplifting Hurt Penney in Latest Quarter [Dow Jones]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.