Every once in a while, a big retail chain reinvents itself, and I always find it fun to watch. Remember, for instance, when Abercrombie & Fitch was a place for great, white hunters to shop? Or when Banana Republic was all about safari chic?
The latest store to do a big switcheroo is JCPenney. This reboot isn’t a simple case of hipping up the middle-American staple and shortening its name to JCP (though of course, they have shortened the name to JCP).
According to this piece in the Wall Street Journal, JCP’s new CEO, Ron Johnson, is trying to turn the whole concept of a department store on its ear. The store’s main floor is no longer a sea of cosmetic counters. Now, it’s a wide-open “town square,” surrounded by dozens of tiny specialty shops. The ubiquitous .99 has been lopped off of price tags. And instead of pricing items high, then holding sale after sale after sale, all merchandise will now be offered at lower prices from the get-go, and there will be regular sales two Fridays/month. (For a full breakdown of JCP’s new pricing structure, check out this great blog.
All of these changes seem made for busy women who can’t exactly plan for spontaneous sales, and don’t like to be toyed with when it comes to pricing. Considering that a majority of department store shoppers are women, this seems like a smart move.
My favorite part of the new JCP is its marketing. Ellen Degeneres, whom I adore, has been hired as spokesperson. She and the company were both the picture of grace in the face of a recent anti-gay protest by the group One Million Moms. And Ellen’s JCP commercials were one of the only entertaining parts of the recent Oscar broadcast!
In addition to advertising the store’s new game—which includes no coupons and no receipt necessary for returns—Ellen’s commercials introduce the chain’s new motto: “Fair and Square.”
I love the cleverness of this phrase. Not only does it refer to the classic community gathering place that is the small town square, it also pokes a bit of fun at JCP’s old image—which was definitely square. Such sweet, self-deprecating marketing is winning, and I hope it works. Next time I’m at the mall, I plan to check out the new JCP. I’ll also be curious to see if their rebrand impacts other department stores, which are all suffering in this economy. Johnson is the genius behind the futuristic Apple Store, so the odds are in his favor.
However it goes, I admire JCP for shaking things up, and for following through with some great marketing to women.
Have you been to the new JCP yet? What do you think?