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  • Jennifer Marks

A Tweak? Or a Twist?

Jennifer Marks Editor-In-ChiefJennifer Marks Editor-In-Chief
LET ME START WITH THIS: I am rooting for Ron Johnson and the JCPenney/JCP ceo's strategy.
     I hope he does transform the company. I hope he does create a breathtaking, 21st century format for department store retailing. I want to walk into JCP - the moniker for the future, completely fresh format store than consists of 100 shop-in-shops - and be so blown away that my purse pops open of its own accord and my debit card whisks itself through one of those nifty iPads the company's free-range associates will be using to check out shoppers on the spot.
     I'd also like a little frankness. The original concept of straight-up EDLP introduced in February did not work. Just as it has not worked for so many others before.
     The "tweaks" since applied to the pricing strategy are, in fact, a retreat.
     You can call a $10-off email offer a "gift," but it's still a coupon. Especially when you acknowledge you're probably going to do it some more.
     You can say your holiday strategy amounts to a single, weeks-long promotional event, but when you promise it will offer the lowest prices in the company's history across every department in the store, you're engaging in standard-issue holiday door-busting.
     When you revise your price placards so shoppers can compare the everyday price to the suggested price, that's called discount merchandising.
     A couple of weeks ago, Johnson was back in New York for his quarterly face-to-face with the analyst community, and he presented these initiatives as "tweaks."
     C'mon.
     The other thing that stood out for me about what Johnson had to say at the meeting was this: For the first time, he dropped the pretense that JCP is trying to cater to its traditional customers while wooing new ones. How do we know? Because for the first time since the company's big "Fresh Air" presentation of the new vision eight months ago, he did not utter those words.
     And frankly, since the loyal JCPenney customer of yore (meaning January 2012 and back) only shopped the store four times a year, how much was there to hang on to?
     So, implicit in that is the idea that JCP is taking a flying leap. My fingers are crossed, and I'm hoping for a happy landing.

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