Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Can JC Penney Be Saved?

This is all my personal opinion, however I have shopped at JC Penney for years, and it's where I get my hair done. 

There is some good news on the horizon for the company - if they play their cards right.

A little background: JC Penney has been around since I can remember, and a lot of my furniture and clothing as a child came from JC Penney.

This evening I went to the local store (I didn't buy anything and I'll later tell you why) and then checked out their web site. One of the big problems - and it's a key problem they have - is defining who their customer is.

The store closest to me is at Tempe Marketplace, which is an outdoor mall located not too far from the ASU campus. For this reason, you do find some areas of the store that are obviously geared towards this demographic. One downside to this, though, is the only ASU items I could find were in the Men's sportswear department, I guess women aren't allowed to be fans. The rest of the store is geared towards the upper middle income family - Mom, Dad and the kids. Question #1:  Do they exist in this location?

They have done a good job with the renovations, I like the direction they are going with the different labels under one roof. They have also brightened up the look to make it pop visually with light and color. I liked the mannequins in the center of the aisle, however I'm wondering if people with wheelchairs have issues with those.

There is some inconsistency, however, with the layout of the store. There is an entire front section - with really nice designer areas - for women, men have a few designer areas including a shop for suits (they may want to re-think the grunge looking sales clerk in a cotton undershirt who was there helping customers when I was there). Wonderful areas for children (they could do more with the infant area), but the Women's Full Figure area is still an issue.

I'm full figured, so this is a sticky point for me. They used to have some cute clothes in full figure, but they got rid of the few designers who made clothes I like. They have the cute JCP label and Worthington for business. Here's the problem with both: All of their pants have low waists on them, which is not only immodest apparel, it can be an embarrassment for the customer who buys these items only to find their stomach or backside sticking out. It's not flattering for a full figure body. At least not in my eyes. They have another label, however those high-waisted pants only come in 100% polyester - bad news if you are in 100 + degree heat.

Forget about buying a full figured dress that doesn't make you look like you're wearing a sheet, or might actually have sleeves on them, unless you are planning to wear a business suit to the next family picnic. Obviously they haven't looked at the numbers in their target demographics, or they might realize there are a number of customers who have full figures. Who knows, perhaps they might win some customers over from Catherines or Lane Bryant by putting a little more effort into what is offered there, instead of making it look like an afterthought?

The other issue stems from the old JC Penney vs. the new. They got rid of the home furnishings (unless you count the vacuum cleaner and nick nacks), but they kept the drapery section. Why? I know back in the day, you used to get a designer to come to your home to help you pick out the drapes, but I don't know that they do that anymore.

I will also add that most people want to pick out window coverings when they pick out the paint for a room, unless the window covering is supposed to match the duvet. I could see having a few duvet sets with accompanying window treatments, but unless they plan on bringing in the updated furniture selection JC Penney has online, there is no point in keeping an entire drapery department there. It's wasted space on the showroom floor that can be used for items that are more profitable.

Along these lines, how is JC Penney planning on showcasing the furniture they have online? Most people want to see it before they buy it.

One other thing that I think would generate some buzz and get some people in the door is to have a Spring and Fall Fashion show there, as well as some weekend demonstrations of products by celebrity guests. They are introducing a line called Martha Stewart Celebrations - party decorating type of stuff - would Martha or someone from her Magazine come out to give a presentation? They have some other name brand items - kitchen items, clothing lines - would people from these companies come out to demonstrate their products or give some fashion tips? This is how they can get people into the store, and turn the store into a destination location.

Again, just a few thoughts, but as there has been local news coverage, I thought these were fair points and questions to bring up.

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