For too long, JCPenney traffic and sales were boosted by coupons that customers clipped and used in-store. When CEO Ron Johnson took over in November of last year, he promised that he would stop using coupons and make the new "jcp" a place of everyday savings, where customers would come if they knew that prices were low every day. So the company ditched coupons altogether back in February.
It turned out, however, that no coupons took a bite out of the bottom line, so the beleaguered Johnson emailed customers to say they shouldn’t have to wait around for sales, to so please enjoy a $10 “gift” to use before Nov. 4. That gift, to many, smacked of a coupon, but the store positioned it as more of an uncoupon.
A spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that it wasn’t a coupon: "This invitation is in no way a reflection of a departure from our fair and square everyday low price." Call it what you want, but the hope is clearly to get some bodies into the stores and pick up some sales before the holiday season hits.
Another idea put forth by Johnson, who used to work for Apple and helped to conceive their retail stores and Genius Bars, was to create mini-stores with pop-up boutiques for such brands as Levi’s, Sephora, and Liz Claiborne. At least one of them is feeling good about it.
Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., told investors that the mini-stores are doing well. Each Levi’s shop boasts a "denim bar," which features "iPads to let customers browse 11 cuts and 88 washes of jeans."
Expect more iPads to pop up at jcp. Johnson’s Apple connection is also aiding in the design of such new stores as the one that just opened in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where, Phillyburbs.com reports, “associates are armed with iPads or, in the near future, iPod Touches to check out customers quickly, without having to find the nearest open customer service desk.”
The big question: Will in-store boutiques and adding digital to the jcp shopping experience — or the time-tested allure of coupons on top of "fair and square" everyday low prices bring people back to Penney’s again? Whatever it takes, Johnson's clearly game.