Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By KAVITA KUMAR St. Louis Post-Dispatch
In most of the small towns where Glik's operates, J.C. Penney is a neighbor. In some cases, the retailers are just a door or two away from one another in a strip center.
Steve Snyder, on a short leave with the U.S. Army from a tour in Afghanistan, shops with Sherry Colburn at the Glik’s store, a neighbor of J.C. Penney’s in Farmington, Mo. J.C. Penney’s recent stumble, after it drastically reduced sales, has driven more customers to the stores next door, said Jeff Glik, chief executive of the chain of 55 apparel stores.
Photos by Erik M. Lunsford/St. Louis-Post-Dispatch/MCT
Brooklyn Hudson tries on clothes for her upcoming birthday at the Glik’s store in Farmington, Mo., which shares a strip mall with J.C. Penney. “Consumers love the art of finding a bargain,” said Glik’s CEO, “and so they’ve gotten disappointed with J.C. Penney.”
That's a good thing for Glik's these days. J.C. Penney's recent stumble -- after it drastically reduced sales -- has driven more customers to the stores next door, said Jeff Glik, chief executive of the chain of 55 apparel stores.
"They're in such disarray right now, and we're the beneficiaries of that," he said. "So many consumers love the art of finding a bargain, and so they've gotten disappointed with J.C. Penney."
It's one of the reasons Glik says his company's same-store sales have risen 8.3 percent so far this year compared to last year. Executives at Macy's department stores also reported they've seen an uptick in sales in malls where there are also J.C. Penney stores.
It was a bold move by J.C. Penney: Eliminate all coupons and many special discounts and sales in favor of an everyday low pricing structure. But the chain has been discovering that shoppers are more addicted to coupons and sales than they expected. Executives still think the new strategy will pay off in the long run. But some critics are not so optimistic.
"You can't retrain America," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of the America's Research Group. "Every retailer in the country would have to get rid of sales at the same time to make that strategy work."
Under a new chief executive, the 110-year-old retailer embarked earlier this year on a "fair and square pricing" strategy, eliminating most promotions and those popular $10 off coupons.
In response, same-store sales plummeted 19 percent for the first quarter ended April 28, compared to the like period a year ago. Store traffic dropped 10 percent.
Ron Johnson, Penney's CEO, came to the company after engineering Apple's wildly successful retail stores. When he came on board at the end of last year, he promised to reinvent the modern department store.
He brought on a so-called "dream team" of executives, many his former colleagues from Target and Apple, including Michael Kramer, who left Kellwood Co. to join him.
One of Johnson's first major moves was to overhaul pricing. He noted that the company had 590 sales and promotions last year, and consumers only bought a small fraction of items at regular price.
At an investors conference last month, he said Penney's promotional strategy had run its course. In the last decade, the company's average price point went from $27 to $36 -- a 40 percent increase. The company used bigger and bigger sales to draw customers in. Customers bought -- but at a lower sale price than before. And the overall sales volume wasn't growing, he said.
"And so over that time, you kind of lost your price integrity, and the only way to beat a sale is what? A bigger sale," he said. "That model wasn't working."
The new pricing approach rolled out in February. Regular prices are now 40 percent lower than before. Then there are "monthlong values" on different products, which are discounted 20 to 30 percent off from the everyday price. And its "best prices," or clearance prices, are rolled out on the first and third Friday of every month.
In the first-quarter conference call, Johnson acknowledged that the first 90 days had been tougher than expected. But he added that this was the year of transformation and it would take a year to see the positive results reflected.
"We're trying to essentially convert the Titanic into 1,100 WaveRunners," he said. "That's really hard to do."
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