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JC Penney’s Black Friday Struggle

Nov. 16, 2013
Black Friday, Shopping
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JC Penney has taken quite the tumble recently, with enough boardroom drama to create a USA Network pilot and tumbling stock prices dominating the headlines.While most shoppers aren’t interested in stock prices or CEO shuffles, the moving and shaking at JC Penney had a major impact on consumers. Everything from the discounts offered (that is, there were none) to the layout of the store changed during this recent period of volatility.

Now that the dust has settled, JC Penney is gearing up for the 2013 holiday shopping season. JCP is banking big on the 2013 holiday shopping season, and Black Friday in particular, to help it return to form. Stores will open on Thanksgiving Day at 8 P.M and shoppers can expect deep discounts as well as the return of the beloved Disney snow globes. Continue reading below to find out just what happened at the top of JCP and how it affected every aspect of the store, including its 2012 Black Friday.

Do the CEO Shuffle

In 2011, the board of JC Penney decided to skew younger. Enter Ron Johnson.

Johnson was the man who headed up Apple’s wildly successful retail venture. He is also the creator of the most-beloved bar in the world, the Genius Bar. Johnson was hired in November 2011 to replace Myron Ullman, who had been CEO from 2004 to 2011. Johnson came in like a wrecking ball, with radical ideas in mind. For starters, he did away with discounts and coupons, replacing them with “everyday low prices.”

He also shook up the look of stores, creating boutique stores inside of JCP stores to showcase top-flight brands. This move to attract a younger and hipper audience ended up alienating some of the brand’s most devoted followers. The result was a stinging backlash against Johnson and JC Penney.

Nowhere was Johnson’s failure more apparent than in the stock prices of JC Penney. This helpful graph, courtesy of BusinessWeek, shows just how far JCP stock plummeted under Johnson:

The store’s collectible Disney snow globes, an item typically given away to Black Friday shoppers, were also given the boot. Prize buttons offering the chance to win cash and vacations were offered instead. Some welcomed the change. Others created Facebook pages calling for the return of the beloved globes. JC Penney also decided to bring discounts back for Black Friday 2012, but by that time the damage had already been done.

If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix It

JC Penney fired Ron Johnson on April 8th, 2013, replacing him with, you guessed it, Myron Ullman. Ullman has brought discounts back in a big way, but shoppers and investors have been wary. Ullman’s biggest test will be the holiday shopping season and Black Friday 2013 in particular.

JC Penney’s Black Friday 2013 Plan:

JC Penney’s Black Friday 2013 plan will be decidedly different from what it rolled out in 2012. Shoppers didn’t take kindly to Johnson axing discounts and coupons, although the ousted CEO may have had a logical foot to stand on when he called such tactics gimmicky. The reality of the situation is that JC Penney’s customers have come to expect coupons in the mail and signs around stores advertising discounted items. The absence of discounts and coupons only served to alienate customers and make them feel uncomfortable at best and unwanted at worst.

So, discounts will be back in a big way, but anyone could have seen that coming.

What else is planned?

JC Penney is opening much, much earlier for Black Friday 2013 than it did for Black Friday 2012. JCP lagged behind the competition last year, opening its doors at 6 A.M. on Black Friday. The additional hours mean more flexibility for shoppers, which should lead to more revenue.

JC Penney’s attempt to reestablish goodwill among its hardcore followers means that the giveaway snow globes will be making a return. A Mickey Mouse snow globe will be given out to shoppers in place of the promo buttons, which received a lukewarm welcome at best.

The company is hoping a return to its roots, coupled with deep discounts and Disney snow globes, will help bring customers back. It remains to be seen whether or not this return to familiarity will encourage jilted customers to re-embrace the brand, but it’s quite frankly JCP’s only option at this point.