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Reuters reports that JC Penney has just done something that its new CEO, Ron Johnson, swore he'd never do as he attempted to wean customers off the steady diet of price promotions and coupons that the company had force-fed shoppers over the years.

It has sent its customers a $10 gift certificate, good for an in-store purchase until November 4.

Or, in other words, a $10 coupon.

In an accompanying letter to shoppers, Johnson says that the coupon/certificate is a way of thanking people for their loyalty.

Since embarking on its new strategy, JC Penney's sales and traffic have been plummeting, increasing the pressure on Johnson to find ways to turn the troubled retailer around faster.
KC's View:
A coupon by any other name still smells as sweet. And spends as easily.

In the long run, from a philosophical point of view, I believe that Johnson's is the absolutely right approach. For many customers, the barrage of coupons and sales offered by JC Penney were like heroin ... people constantly needed their next fix. And in launching this ongoing barrage, JC Penney was essentially reducing its value proposition, saying that its products were only worth buying when on sale, and if you don't like the sales today, just wait 24 hours.

But like getting off heroin, sometimes cold turkey is the hardest way to go. So maybe we can think of this $10 certificate as a kind of methadone.

One thing ... there are a lot of retailers who should learn this lesson. You keep cheapening the value proposition, and eventually you create the impression that you have few values and perhaps less value.