A Penney for your thoughts

I’m sure this happens to a lot of us and not just during the holiday shopping season. You make a purchase of a needed item thinking you’re getting a really good deal because it’s on sale only to go back to the store two days later and find the item discounted even further.

Or another frustrating shopping scenario: there’s something you really would like to buy (for me right now, it’s new running shoes; my house slippers have more support than my current pair) but you can’t make the timing of the coupons and sales fit into your schedule. It goes something like “Jennifer needs to be at the high school from 10:00 to 1:00 but I won’t be driving past Kohl’s until 1:15 and the Early Bird Specials end at 1:00. I could drive across town then back across town and then pick her up, or I could…oh, forget. It’s too much work. I’ll just live with what I’ve got.”

Based on some recent articles in the newspaper, JC Penney’s is hoping to capitalize on exactly my kind of thinking. You may have seen one of their TV commercials with a woman screaming at her mailbox that is spilling out coupons and sale flyers.

Penney’s is instituting a simpler pricing strategy that does away with the constant sales. And that makes a lot of sense to me.

They are permanently marking down all of their merchandise by 40%. There will be some items that go on sale but it will be for the entire month. Clearance items will no be tagged as “Best Value” so customers know that for the item, the price has hit rock bottom.

I also think it’s interesting they are doing away with the “$19.99 sounds cheaper than $20” pricing – that strategy might have worked when a penny was worth something but not now. Instead, Penney’s will sell the item for either $19 or $20.

I think consumers are so jaded these days by constant sales and discounts that giving us a sense that we are paying what an item is really worth will go over well. It seems more authentic which I think will play well against Kohl’s more flashy “Look at us! Big discounts for a short amount of time!” type of promotions.

This is all the brainchild of Ron Johnson who previously ran Apple’s wildly successful retail business. Picture an Apple store – sleek, uncluttered and ultra-hip – compared to a J.C.Penney store – hodge-podgy, cluttered and bad smelling. According to the articles, he plans to carve out small specialty stores for brands like Sephora and turn the high-traffic areas into places to “hang out.”

Hanging out at an Apple store is cool. JC Penney’s…not so much. He has a big job ahead of him and I can’t wait to see how consumers respond.

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