Insights

Ron Johnson Ousted as J.C. Penney CEO

BY CSA STAFF

By Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys

In 2000, the average tenure of a CEO was 10 years. In 2008, it was down to eight and half, signaling a slightly higher degree of corporate and brand accountability by boards and shareholders. Ron Johnson, the now former-CEO of J.C. Penney, only lasted 17 months.

We can’t imagine that anyone is surprised. The results of his efforts were dismal and grim. jcp (Johnson “modernized” the name and logo) lost $552 million in the fourth quarter, nearly a billion dollars for the year, and sales fell nearly 29% versus a year ago. And Penney share lost half their value during Johnson’s tenure.

Nobody would deny that retailing has gotten tougher in the past few years. But equally so, brands have learned that if they can create some degree of emotional engagement (in additional to doing the rational stuff, such as merchandise range, fair pricing strategies, and customer service), they are bound to see positive behavior toward the brand.

And yes, it’s gotten harder for retailers to provide meaningful and engaging differentiation as regards their brands. But it’s axiomatic that if customers behave more positively towards you, you ought to see positive results to your bottom line. To do that, however, you need to have something that customers can engage with. We won’t go into all the reasons consumers engage with Apple as that would be preaching to the choir. Johnson apparently thought Penney and Apple were on equal planes when it came to emotional engagement. Boy, was he wrong!

According to our 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, when it came to department stores, overall engagement levels (versus a category ideal, calculated to be 100%) were pretty close:

  • Kohl’s: 84%
  • Macy’s: 82%
  • Marshall’s: 81%
  • T.J. Maxx: 80%
  • Dillard’s/Sears: 79%

But not for J.C. Penney. The company’s engagement rating — according to their own customers — was 70%. That’s low in any category, but particularly so in department store retailing.

Penney has announced that Myron Ullman, who had been CEO until Johnson was brought in, is coming back. In a seven year period when Ullman was in charge at Penney, the company’s shares were down 15%, so about 2% a year, which is still a lot better than 50%.

Talk about cutting your losses!


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Online shoe retailer launches design contest

BY CSA STAFF

SEATTLE — Online shoe retailer, OnlineShoes.com, announced that four in-vogue fashion bloggers will each design a pair of customized 993 Running Shoes by New Balance, and readers will vote on who did it best. At the end of voting, the winning design will go into production and be sold by OnlineShoes.com as limited-edition footwear. Voters can also enter for a chance to win a pair of custom New Balance running shoes. The contest runs from Tuesday, April 9 through Friday, April 19, 2013.

"A contest like this is unprecedented," says OnlineShoes.com online search marketing manager Lindsey Sutphin. "Talented fashion designers dream about this very kind of exciting opportunity—not only to see a design come to life through a legendary brand like New Balance, but also to make the designed product available for consumers to wear."

Each season, the Style Central contest features a different footwear brand and showcases one of the brand’s latest styles. Popular fashion bloggers each create a unique take on a seasonal style. Visitors to the website then get an opportunity to vote on their favorite look. Bloggers for April’s Style Central include Sara of "A Dose of Pretty," Julie of "Girl in the Red Shoes," Sarah of "Sarah Lee Weaver" and Emily of "Newlywed Moments."

Each of the four bloggers have created an original pair of New Balance Custom 993 running shoes through a user-controlled design interface available on the New Balance website. The design process begins with a bestselling 990 series running shoe in a single color, and allows users to deck out more than a dozen different parts of the shoe from a wide selection of color options. Designers can also create a customized message, up to eight characters long, which is embroidered on the heel of each shoe; even embroidery’s color is customizable and each shoe can feature a different message.

Once the four customized running shoes are showcased starting April 9, customers have the opportunity to vote for the design they like best. The design that receives the most votes will be sent to production and featured as a Style Central Limited Edition shoe available for purchase at OnlineShoes.com. Voters are also given the chance to win an opportunity to create their own custom pair of New Balance 993 Running Shoes.

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T.J. Maxx finds women not falling victim to fashion trends

BY CSA STAFF

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Women are taking fashion into their own hands, according to a new study from T.J.Maxx and Dr. Hazel Clark, research chair of fashion at Parsons The New School for Design.

Findings show that women are not confined by trends or siloed by style profiles. They are taking fashion into their own hands, with more than half of women (55%) interpreting trends to make them their own. They are fashion chameleons – on average, describing their personal style using four different profiles, transforming from classic and conservative to unique and artsy at the crack of a closet door. In fact, nearly two-thirds (63%) of women who described their personal style as classic also continued to describe themselves as trendy and stylish.

It’s no wonder 77% of women said they want more options to express themselves. But one thing remains consistent – they prioritize quality items (38%) and great prices (45%) when building their personal style palette.

"Findings clearly show that women are feeling empowered by fashion, not confined by it. They see it as a creative outlet that allows them to express who they are, not what’s on the runway or a mannequin," said Dr. Clark. "They aren’t looking for some cookie-cutter approach to shopping or to copy a head-to-toe look. They turn to stores like T.J.Maxx to feel in control of their fashion choices and find top quality pieces at great prices, giving them more options to self-express."

T.J.Maxx is also inviting women to show what inspires their personal style, asking them to put together a self-expression Pinterest board for a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree with T.J.Maxx Style Scout Helena Glazer of fashion blog Brooklyn Blonde in New York City. For more information and to enter the MaxxExpression Pinterest Contest for your chance to win, visit: tjmaxx.com/maxx

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