J.C. Penney doesnt have sales.
No, wait, it sort of does.
Uh, scratch that. It does have sales and of course – coupons.
Flip-flopping aside, the retailer from Plano, Texas, remains one of Glenbrook Squares key anchors as it occupies more than 15 percent or 191,000 square feet at the Fort Wayne shopping center.
And even with the pending September arrival of a Carsons department store at the former Marshall Fields, Glenbrook General Manager Brian Cote said Penneys remains important to the areas retail landscape. The company must feel the same way as it is renovating the mall store with its shops-within-stores concept that involves separate areas to hawk popular brand items.
Ironically, the new format came about the same time as the retailer showed CEO Ron Johnson the door earlier this month. He served just 16 months, but his turnaround plan – which included shedding store sales in favor of everyday low prices – failed. The company backtracked a bit and began to offer some sales, but the damage was done.
Penneys rehired Johnsons predecessor, Mike Ullman, who will reinstate familiar promotions like back-to-school sales and coupon advertising in newspapers. Penney officials are confident going forward.
The return of our former CEO should not present any confusion to our customers, spokeswoman Sarah Holland said in an email. J.C. Penney has already started incorporating sales and coupons as part of our promotional efforts to entice customers to shop with us more often. The company will continue to deliver the style, quality and value our customers expect from J.C. Penney.
Cote said he understands consumers interest in the retailer.
Its only natural, he said, adding people want to know whats happening with their favorite stores. Penneys has been an extremely strong anchor here. Fort Wayne is lucky to have such (retail) diversity. I think it bodes well when bigger anchors believe in the market.
Cote declined to provide lease revenue generated by Penneys. The store has been at the mall since 1976. There are 30 locations in Indiana.
Outside of Fort Wayne, the nearest is in Huntington.
Residing on Huntingtons busiest thoroughfare, North Jefferson Street, Penneys is the anchor tenant at Huntington Plaza. The strip mall is about as big as Fort Waynes Penney store. The retailer occupies 25,000 square feet at the location.
Property manager Tom Hughes said it is easily one of the most well-traveled spots in town.
Fort Wayne retiree Tom Hetrick said he hasnt kept up with the retailer on the pages of Wall Street, but on Main Street.
When I come into a store I want to see those red sales signs, said Hetrick, 55, who shopped at Penneys last week. I dont like to shop, so when I do I want to see those 30 percent and 50 percent off signs. It catches your eye.
Fellow customer Judy Bowyer agrees. The 71-year-old from Columbia City said she doesnt believe in everyday low prices.
In this economy, people are looking for sales, she said. Thats why I come here. When I go to Kohls, thats what I see.
Critics said Penneys has done a good job of irritating shoppers who turned their backs on the department store chain – sales dropped 25 percent last year. Penneys annual revenue slipped to $13 billion last year, the lowest since at least 1987.
Retail analyst Grant Cardone of Miami Beach, Fla., said the business only has itself to blame.
You just cant stop doing what youve been doing for years and come back and expect everybody to be all happy about it, said Cardone, New York Times best-selling author of the book, If Youre Not First, Youre Last.
More than worrying about sales, however, Cardone said Penneys, and other similar retailers need to pay more attention to customer service.
I dont care how cheap something is if there is nobody talking to customers, no engagement, he said.
Consumers dont just want to save money, they want to feel welcome when they walk into stores, Cardone said.
People need to be greeted, he said. They need to know theyre welcome.