Breakout

JCPenney Apologizes, Promises to Listen to Scorned Customers

Breakout

It only took a year and about $6 billion of lost sales to get here, but JCPenney (JCP) says it's learned its lesson. In a humbling new multi-media ad campaign, the Texas-based department store chain is openly admitting that it messed up when it revamped its stores, styles and sales promotions under the brief leadership of former CEO Ron Johnson.

As my co-host Jeff Macke and I discuss in the attached video, the mea culpa is remarkable on many fronts but it remains to be seen if the strategy works. It's a strategy that is more in line with its historic roots and formerly loyal customers rather than the younger, hipper shoppers it was aiming to attract, which is evident from the vintage storefront photos shown in the opening frames of the 30-second spot.

Within its plea for scorned customers to "come back" is the admission that JCPenney made mistakes, but more so, as the ad copy goes, that they intend to correct them.

"Some changes you liked and some you didn’t, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful. Come back to JCPenney, we heard you. Now, we’d love to see you."

As much as the video is reaching out to the sentimentality of its core middle-aged demographic, the 110-year-old retailer with 1,100 stores is also mindful that not all of its customers are older, as evidenced by the 3.6 million "likes" on its Facebook page, as well as an active presence on Twitter where it is hosting a dialog with its 115,000 followers under the #JCPListens theme.

The feedback pouring in shows just how challenging it will be for JCPenney to win back former customers and attract new customers at the same time.

For example, a middle-aged mother commented, questioning whether JCP "is listening hard enough" since its just-mailed Mother's Day catalog appears to be aimed at women who are "110 pounds and under 22-years-old." Yet another post by a self-admitted ''granny" welcomes the revision from stores that felt "empty and cold."

Strangely, this entire comeback story is being overseen by reinstated CEO Mike Ullman, who oversaw the demise of the franchise once already when he ran the company for seven years until 2011. Whether the latest tack works remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, JC Penney is sorry and knows it made a huge mistake.

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