Shopping for Cool at J.C. Penney

Shopping for Cool at J.C. Penney


May 28, 2013

So what’s wrong with this marriage of Apple and J. C. Penney retail cultures? Their distinct target markets, for one. The last time I heard, Penney’s was not “cool,” and they targeted price-sensitive consumers who shop sales, not affluent consumers who paid high prices for the latest technology.One can imagine how loyal customers responded to Penney’s new “everyday low price” strategy in place of sales and discounts. The new strategy not only conflicts with the store’s retail culture and consumer expectations, but flies in the face of retailing culture across all price points, even luxury. Our research consistently shows that bargain shopping is a kind of sport – particularly for women. It has the thrill of a treasure hunt, of outwitting the market. Rummaging through a discount store is also a form of therapy after a hard day. It’s also a catalyst for social bonding. My favorite story involves two moms who ritualistically meet weekly for their¬† “friends Friday” shopping at the mall. Shopping sales contributes to their status as wise homemakers and gives them material for sharing stories about deals with friends and family. Even affluent shoppers love a bargain and mix Marshalls with Neiman Marcus.Management made another mistake when it tried to “cool up” Penney’s image by adding free Wi-Fi, but did not provide seating where shoppers can sit down to search the web or exchange texts, and the connection is not that great anyway. In other words, they imported technology without importing the social dynamic, modern vibe, and overall tech culture to the brand. This is another example of participating in the new technology without understanding the culture of technology and its relationship to the traditional, bricks and mortar retail environment. Management tried to enhance the customer experience by tacking on Silicon Valley trimming to a traditionally conservative brand and price-driven sector.

© 2013 marketing semiotics



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