Shoppers abandon Penney's in droves

Edward Fox, marketing professor at SMU's Cox School of Business, talks about the missteps made by ex-JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson.

By Barry Schlachter

FORT WORTH -- A shopper strode out of J.C. Penney at Ridgmar mall without making a purchase because it didn't have what she was seeking at the Sephora makeup counter.

"I used to come a lot but not now. Actually I wasn't thrilled with the changes. They're ending coupons and I cut up my Penney's credit card when they started using Ellen DeGeneres" as a celebrity endorser, said the Springtown resident, who identified herself only as Connie. "I'm very conservative."

Like other once-loyal Penney's customers, Connie was turned off by abrupt changes implemented by Ron Johnson, the chain's CEO of 17 months who was sacked last week after annual sales dropped 25 percent at stores open at least a year.

Before recently backpedaling, Johnson cut way back on coupons and promotions in favor of everyday low prices, and began filling its 1,100 outlets with branded mini-stores like Joe Fresh, many of them youth-oriented.

Business students at Southern Methodist University who recently surveyed Penney customers found that some were alienated by the changes, the loss of coupons -- even though they've been brought back -- and the feeling that it was no longer "their" store, said Ed Fox, a marketing professor at SMU's Cox School of Business. "They were put off by the changes and they found it difficult to find things."

Fox noted that Johnson did away with coupons and promotions -- which was easy and cost nothing -- long before he fully implemented his ambitious "shop in shops" concept, so there was nothing to attract customers....

Read more here: