January 29, 2013

Struggling J.C. Penney drops no-sales strategy

The shift to everyday low prices a year ago failed to catch on and hurt profits and the chain's stock value.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - J.C. Penney is bringing back sales.

The struggling department store chain this week will begin adding back some of the hundreds of sales it ditched last year in hopes of luring shoppers who were turned off when the discounts disappeared, CEO Ron Johnson told The Associated Press.

Penney also plans to add price tags or signs for more than half of its merchandise to show customers how much they're saving by shopping at the chain -- a strategy used by a few other retailers. For store-branded items such as Arizona, Penney will show comparison prices from competitors.

The moves are a reversal for Penney on the eve of the one-year anniversary of when it vowed to almost completely get rid of the sales that Americans covet. The idea was to offer everyday low prices that customers could count on rather than the nearly 600 fleeting discounts, coupons and sales it once offered, but it ended up cutting into the company's profits.

The bold plan has been closely watched by others in the retail industry, which commonly offers deep discounts to draw shoppers. But so far the experiment has served as a cautionary tale of how difficult it is to change shoppers' habits: Next month, Penney is expected to report its fourth consecutive quarter of big sales drops and profit losses. After losing more than half of its value, Penney stock is trading at about $19. And the company's credit ratings are in junk status.

 

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