Is JCP trying to reinvent the wheel?

I wrote the following comment for RetailWire after listening to the recent presentation by JCPenney senior management about their strategic initiatives. (I will have plenty more to say on the subject as the execution and results become apparent.) I will add — having shopped a couple of JCP stores since the beginning of February — that they need to communicate the new value proposition much more clearly than they are doing now.

The new pricing strategy at JCPenney is a bold experiment, and time will tell whether it will cause JCP to gain or lose market share. (It’s certainly a “statement” about brand differentiation.) I do wonder how the re-pricing affects national brands with broad distribution and “suggested retails”…everyone from Cuisinart to Nike to Seiko.

But I often find that retailers should address issues of merchandising and the store experience before (not after) dealing with branding and other marketing issues. JCP is tackling its brand position first, perhaps because it was the easiest to get done right away.

Mr. Johnson drew several parallels to the Apple “narrative” during his presentation yesterday, and many skeptics have pointed out the differences. (The Apple Store sells a narrow assortment from a single brand with a “cool factor” drawing crowds to new product introductions.) As JCP evolves its merchandising and store experience — on a rather slow timetable — it would be smart to infuse the sort of excitement surrounding short-duration promotions that has driven traffic to retailers like Target and H&M.

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