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JC Penney, On the Rise Once More
By: Heather Ewert
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I celebrated a birthday a week ago, and my mother flew out to California to stay with me. As is our tradition, we logged on to a few choice websites to go clothing shopping.

JC Penney is among my mother’s favorite places to buy affordable clothes. I’ve already written about JC Penny’s recent less-than-stellar sales, and I was aware that many people were extremely upset about Ron Johnson’s idea to nix special store events and coupons — including my mother, a lifetime fan of the store. Under new CEO Michael Ullman’s directive, the store has brought back sales events and private-label merchandise that appeal to their core customer base. The sales have improved, and customers are returning, including my mother.

“They brought back sales,” she commented. “It was stupid when they got rid of them.” We bought several items of clothing, all of which were on sale.

Yes, stupid indeed. When a brand fails to listen to its core customers, it backslides. What took years of meticulous campaigning was all but destroyed in a short period of time with a few key sales changes. JC Penney turned its back on the customers that built the brand: Middle-class Americans who enjoy getting more bang for their buck through sales, coupons, and store events. While it’s important to consider new customers and the relevance of your brand, it’s more important to stay true to the reliable shoppers.

Brand loyalty is a big deal. It isn’t surprising anymore when companies are accused of corporate greed, of pandering to the few with the most money, and of changing their core values to boost sales even by a slight margin. But just because it isn’t surprising doesn’t mean it’s “normal”: these actions position the brand as disloyal and inaccessible, and thus undesirable.

It isn’t evident that JC Penney will make a full comeback. They have slowed the decline of sales and brought back some of their customer base, but they’re far from being in the clear. However, they remain a testament to brand loyalty: change your sales model too much, and your company will be the one paying for it. Make amends, and you’ll make some friends again.


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About the Author
Heather Ewert is a content writer for an internet marketing company. She enjoys creative writing as well and blogs in her personal time at http://infernoofcool.wordpress.com/. She lives in sunny Southern California with her boyfriend, Snowshoe kitty, and her collection of Warcraft novels.
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