Can JCP afford to miss the sale?

Most normal women associate holidays with family and food and vacation. I associate holidays with sales, period.  They make my heart race faster than any Memorial Day parade or party or picnic ever could. And I don’t mean skimpy ten or twenty-percent-off rounding-error-sales. I mean dramatic fifty-percent-plus scores. Go half or go home.

So as Memorial Day weekend drew near, those glorious emails started to jam my in-box .  “20% off – enter code at checkout.” Uh, trash. “50% – 70% off all Spring fashions.” I can’t click fast enough.

Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of the Summer sales season, when all Spring merchandise gets marked down to clear room for Fall (swoon – Jslow and I live for Fall fashions.) And every year, right after Christmas, all Winter merchandise goes on sale to make way for Spring. Knowing this cycle does not help me when I just have to have the latest whatever and I’m feeling impatient. But it’s critical to helping one, i.e. me, amass a wardrobe far greater than I can afford.

The whole issue of “the sale” is currently being challenged by JC Penney, a place where I spent countless afternoons as a child and hated: a big grim dusty store full of stuff I didn’t like but that my mom could afford. Most of my wardrobe came from there.

Last year, to much fanfare, JC Penney tapped marketing rock-star Ron Johnson, the man who masterminded Apple’s retail stores and Target’s cheap chic strategy, to become their CEO. His first move was to unveil Penney’s new plan to stop sales “gimmicks” and coupons and offer straight-forward everyday low prices. This was supposed to be honest and break the sales cycle. Customers were supposed to rejoice.


In the first quarter of this year, JC Penney reported losses of $163 million. Revenues dropped 20% and store traffic declined 10%.

Crowds of cross coupon-clippers have taken to Facebook and other social media outlets to complain. Faith Popcorn, trend guru, noted, “Taking coupons away from a couponer is like taking vodka away from an alcoholic.”

While this self-diagnosed shopaholic has been breathlessly bouncing from  site to site trying to find the best deals on things I need (nothing), I decide to check out JC (or JCP as they are now positioned.) Other than offering “Free Shipping” on orders over $50, there are no starbursts, fancy fonts or anything festive announcing a sale. What I find is “everyday” listed next to each very low price. This does not feel special, or fun, and even though I rationally know I’m probably getting a deal, it really doesn’t really feel like one.

And there lies the rub. Feel. FEEL. Shopping makes us FEEL things: pretty, smart, excited, HAPPY.

The thrill of the score is everything. Especially when it’s something you have wanted and waited for. Will JC Penney sale away to stay afloat?

In the meantime, here is but one outfit I am pondering. I can’t afford to miss out on anything. Happy sale shopping!



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