Wanted: Marketing Head, Large Retail Chain
Chase is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Well, J.C. Penney's (NYSE: JCP) head of marketing is out of a job. It's no wonder really given that Michael Francis' job was to communicate what should be a fairly simple pricing strategy. The strategy itself, articulated by CEO Ron Johnson, is meant to simplify the traditional department store "final final final Labor Day BLOWOUT, and we really mean it this time, holdover" sale.
But in the process of all the Zen-like simplification, something odd happened: people got confused. Myself included. As I described before, JCP is attempting to promote a pricing scheme of "monthly price," "everyday price," and "best price." The "best price" is indicated by a blue tag, and the "everyday price" is indicated by a red tag. The monthly price is anybody's guess. When I last visited it was a white tag, while perusing the JCP website today the monthly price is highlighted in green.
Michael Francis was originally hired on to the JCP team in order to bring in some of his Target (NYSE: TGT) magic. Target is the obvious model for JCP's new strategy, and Francis' 10-year career there was highly valuable. His experience overseeing Target's expansion into Canada was as applicable to his role at JCP as anyone could get. But still, he was unable to mimic his success. The message he was called on to deliver at Target was, in its simplest form, "good quality, good price." There are no schemes to memorize, nothing to explain to your friends about how the store works. There are just consistently low prices and sales from time to time. For someone like me, a shopper that is not enticed into a store because of a sale, the strategy has planted a kernel into my brain that tells me Target will have what I need at a fair price. I am not working against the monthly clock or competing with others to get a deal.
JCP has not yet succeeded in conveying exactly what value they provide. As noted by commenters in my previous JCP article, we have to give them time. And, to be fair, JCP does have some interesting plans. One of which is their "store within a store" concept that I am truly excited about. Similar to Target's "Go International" or "Shops at Target," the store within a store aims to make fashion a bit more accessible by featuring the less expensive lines of designers like Nanette Lepore and Betsey Johnson. If people begin to think of JCP as the place to go for inexpensive haute couture, the company could begin to create a more coherent marketing message.
Whoever Ron Johnson decides to hire to fill Michael Francis' place, it seems the new employee's job will be to stay the course and find a way to better communicate the current pricing strategy. It is encouraging that Mr. Johnson is confident in his direction. I would begin to get seriously worried if he ditches it altogether… but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
TheLaowai has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.