JC Penney rejects sales in new pricing strategy

JC Penney rolled out new ads this month touting its new tactic free of gimmicks, coupons and sales. Promises of low prices every day replace full-page newspaper ads, TV spots and coupons clogging mailboxes. This approach requires faith that consumers can cut out their coupon habits to believe they’re getting the best deal. Shoppers may need some convincing that an omission of “total saved” on their receipts doesn’t mean the price isn’t right, but losing the subtle trickery should earn some trust from shoppers weary from markups.

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What the others are doing wrong

I dragged my heels to Kohl’s to buy towels for my (grown adult) brother. I felt insulted glancing at price tags demanding upwards of $20 per scratchy, poorly-made towel– even on sale. You have to open a credit card that has 21.9% APR to tack on additional savings that would discount the towel enough to be reasonably priced. No sane shopper wants to jump through all those hoops to finally pay a fair price or believes Kohls is generous with sales instead of marking up goods that average out to subpar quality.

Anyone who has shopped at Kohl’s or any other store with obnoxious markups should appreciate JC Penney’s effort. Maybe fewer shoppers will abandon their carts when they realize their 30% off coupon was left on the kitchen table or forgo the mall altogether to shop online. This is also a win for people who feel there is a stigma attached to coupons. After all, Macy’s markets itself as a higher-end retailer compared to stores such as Sears and uses “savings pass” as a euphemism for coupons. It’s not such a dirty word outside of a first date.

Not quite there

We’re armed with the Internet, smartphones and the knowledge of how much we should pay. We can eliminate the buyer’s remorse that strikes after we suspect we may have overpaid thanks to brower extensions, such as Invisible Hand for Chrome, paired with Google Shopper and blogs that do the dirty work of surfing for savings. For shoppers like me, you’ll have to pull my arm a bit harder to get me to shop for something besides groceries and clothes at a place with real shopping carts and check outs. Or maybe JC Penney is just missing my demographic completely; I suspect it’s targeting middle-aged women, and past Penney campaigns conjure up back-to-school sales. You’ll find me somewhere in between… on my laptop.

The verdict:

Sale-free shopping will earn the trust of deal seekers jaded by markups, but it’s no match for online shoppers with no interest in JC Penney’s type of merchandise, let alone stepping foot in a store if it can be avoided. Overall, it’s a smart plan with potential to catch on.

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