Trying to be like Apple didn't work out so well for J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP). Poaching the Mac maker's retail chief Ron Johnson as CEO led to nothing but pain as he attempted to turn around the department store's fortunes with Apple-esque strategies.
Johnson pursued a more transparent pricing strategy, moving away from artificially inflated prices that were used to make sales and discounts more appealing. That psychological tactic conveys the sense to shoppers that they're getting more value when they buy items on sale.
He also didn't test new ideas, which worked at Apple, but didn't translate into similar success at J.C. Penney. Johnson tried to roll out stores-within-stores for fashionable brands, while also wanting to make J.C. Penney's stores a place to hang out.
People actually do just hang out at Apple stores, whether they're waiting for a Genius Bar appointment, dancing spastically all over the store and posting videos of the activity on YouTube, getting pizzas delivered, or bringing a goat inside. These antics probably wouldn't fly at J.C. Penney.
Well, J.C. Penney knows it screwed up, and it screwed up badly. Now it wants to say it's sorry.
In a new ad, the department store "fesses up" to its mistakes, saying that "it's no secret" that it has been making some dramatic changes lately. Clearly, those moves didn't resonate with the company's core customer base, but it's wising up and listening to the messages that consumers are sending by closing their wallets. J.C. Penney is imploring customers to come back to give it a shot at redemption.
If artificially inflated prices are what consumers want, then artificially inflated prices are what consumers will get.
The new ad campaign was actually being developed well before Johnson's departure, as even Johnson was keenly aware of his missteps. It just so happens that he was ousted shortly before it aired.
If J.C. Penney really wants customers to come back in, maybe they should allow people to bring their goats.