JC Penney continues to be one of the most talked about stories in retail. I wrote about their re-branding efforts in December. I thought it was important to update my perspective. The company launched an aggressive re-positioning campaign last year that so far has failed to revitalize sales at the struggling retail chain. This week CEO Ron Johnson announced that the company would start holding sales and offering coupons again. This is an evolution of the strategy. I think Johnson has learned that sales and coupons are necessary to engage consumers and to provide a reason to visit the store. You can’t always lead consumers to where you want them to go. Change is difficult. You have to give consumers what they want and what they need. It is difficult for a brand to change perceptions quickly. JCP was slow to respond to consumer feedback.
JCP has made great strides in their re-branding effort. I am a fan of their logo, simplified website, new graphics, in-store shop presentations, wider aisles and less cluttered stores. I find that their retail store experience has improved. Many wholesale brands are hoping that JCP is successful. JCP is an important point of distribution for many national apparel brands.
For JCP to be successful, they need to quickly experiment and test new product, marketing, merchandising and promotional concepts. They must adapt their tactics based on what’s working and what isn’t. JCP has to become an organization that has the ability to quickly build, measure, learn and respond. Adapting the mindset of a startup as outlined in Eric Ries’ Book “The Lean Startup” is critical. To survive and succeed, JCP will have to respond to consumer feedback at the speed of a Lean Start Up.