Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cheap, Cheap, Cheap

Ron Johnson, the former Apple executive who was brought in to turn around foundering retailer J.C. Penney has been ousted, and is being replaced by the man that Johnson replaced, Mike Ullman.

Well, in the fine tradition of webloggers everywhere, I have a bit of completely unsolicited advice for Mr. Ullman. According to the Forbes article, the reason why Johnson was unsuccessful was that he was unable to "lure shoppers with everyday low prices rather than the sales for which the chain has long been known." Which I guess makes sense. While it's not really the way that I shop, I suppose there's something to be said for the idea of simply waiting that once something has been marked "50% off for a limited time," you simply go out and buy it, and assume that you're getting a good deal.

But for me, J.C. Penney had a more immediate issue, and it goes something like this. A little more than a year ago (in the February to March timeframe of 2012) I went to a few J.C. Penny stores and purchased some turtlenecks, my preferred cool-weather shirt. Of the six that I purchased, none survived to see this past Christmas. Four of them, in fact, were thrown out prior to the end of the spring "turtleneck season." Neither low everyday prices nor random acts of discounting make much of a difference when clothing begins to develop holes large enough to admit a finger before being worn a half-dozen times. I'll admit the price I paid for the shirts was rock-bottom. But, I hadn't paid much more for the previous batch of shirts that I purchased from Costco - the lifespans of which were measured in years, rather than months or weeks.

I understand that "in this economy" that people feel poor, and therefore are exceedingly price sensitive. And so offering low-low prices can get people in the door. But my most recent experience with J.C. Penney wasn't "inexpensive," it was "not worth paying for," and very nearly "you'd have to pay me to take this stuff." And if you want to make it as a retailer, shoppers have to feel that they've received good value for money. No matter how low the prices are, or how deep the discounts.

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