24218 Wed, 03/07/2012 - 11:08am
Longtime retailer J.C. Penney has always presented a problem for the press—we can’t seem to figure out what to call it.
Over the years, I’ve seen the nation’s most mainstream of retailers written as “JCPenney,” “JC Penney,” “J.C. Penney,” as HFN writes it (I’m not sure why), and of course, just good old Penney’s.
But now, the most mainstream of retailers has plainly spelled it out for us as “jcp.” Or at least that’s how it refers to itself in its new logo.
The logo, a plain “jcp” in a box within a box, emphasizes the retailer’s new everyday “fair and square” pricing. It’s also short, to the point—and most importantly—a departure from the previous logo.
The logo is also symbolic of CEO Ron Johnson’s goal for the 100-year-old chain to be “young and vibrant again.”
Johnson has put into place a complete renovation. The mainstream retailer’s store format, pricing, promotional strategy—and perhaps most importantly—brand image is undergoing a radical transformation.
All of the speculation that Johnson would turn J.C. Penney into a department-store version of Apple has proven to be at least partly correct in that it’s going after the younger in-crowd.
I wonder what founder James Cash Penney would think of the new J.C. Penney, as it targets a hipper clientele. Would he be concerned that the chain is deserting its suburban moms that have kept it in business for so long? One hundred and ten years is a lot of history.
But history doesn’t bring customers into the stores. Just ask Woolworth’s or Montgomery Ward. Boatloads of warm-fuzzy memories couldn’t keep their doors open.
Plus, J.C. Penney’s most recent history reminds modern customers that it’s where their mothers shopped.
Just last week I saw a commercial parody on a Saturday Night Live re-run for what it called, “mom jeans,” high-waisted, out-of-style pants for the not-so-slender mom. And guess where the jeans were sold? Yep, J.C. Penney.
But that’s the old J.C. Penney. That was before Ellen DeGeneres was named the store’s spokesperson—damn the controversy; and before the planned in-store Martha Stewart shops; and before the snazzy new logo.
The new J.C. Penney has been a popular topic of discussion at the recent home furnishings shows. Vendors are rightly concerned about whether their offerings will fit into the updated merchandise mix.
A top executive for one supplier voiced some apprehension about the retailer’s new marketing strategy. “Have you seen that new logo?” the exec said. “What’s up with that? I don’t get it.”
Neither do I, but since the questioning exec and I are well past the age of 40, maybe that’s the point.