J.C. Penney Stock: It's Too Late to Apologize

J.C. Penney's stock was a dud during Ron Johnson's era, but a heartfelt apologetic marketing campaign isn't enough.

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
May 6, 2013 at 4:44PM
Consumer Goods

Last year's biggest retail loser -- J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) -- is sorry.

In a new television commercial that began airing last week, the struggling department store operator admits that it made mistakes. J.C. Penney's stock has shed more than half of its value over the past year, so obviously something is wrong.

However, unlike Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) newly introduced television marketing strategy over the weekend combating recent attacks, J.C. Penney doesn't offer a lot of substance in its public apology. We just get a sappy spot of the battered department store that saw sales plunge 25% last year stating the obvious.

Wal-Mart gave us facts.

  • More than 75% of its store managers started as hourly associates.
  • An amazing 60% of the people in this country shop at Wal-Mart in any given month.
  • Wal-Mart saves shoppers money by dealing directly with manufacturers and local farmers.

J.C. Penney merely gave us cheese.

Let's break down the ad, translating for those unaware of the subtleties in the spot.

It's no secret, recently JCPenney changed.

We brought in Ron Johnson. You know, the guy who led Apple's retail push with its namesake stores. We trusted him. We let him and his handpicked execs commute by private jet so they were only at HQ half the time. You all loved the move at the time. However, it turns out that camisoles and mule pumps aren't proprietary gadgets with vibrant ecosystems. Yo! We dumped Johnson last month.

Some changes you liked and some you didn't, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn.

What were we thinking by offering kids free haircuts on Sundays? We told shoppers not to expect sales or coupons with "fair and square" everyday pricing, and then we move to woo penny-pinching parents who would only visit us if we were giving something away. We were the ones that got the haircut, and it was more than just a little bit off the top.

We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you. To hear what you need, to make your life more beautiful.

Ringing up $4.2 billion less in sales this past fiscal year than we did the year before has done wonders to our listening skills. We're so hip now that J.C. Penney stock is in the teens. Boom!

Come back to JCPenney, we heard you. Now, we'd love to see you.

We swear. You won't find Johnson. He's nowhere to be found. He and his cronies took their fat severance checks and flew out of Texas as if it was Thursday afternoon. We brought in the guy who was previously CEO, even though we thought things were so bad then that we brought in Johnson.

I guess we don't learn from our mistakes.