In new ad, JC Penney pleads with customers to “come back”

May 1, 2013
May 1, 2013

In a mushy ad posted on YouTube last night, JC Penney is pleading for its former customers to come back. It acknowledges that the department store chain has made mistakes but says JC Penney has learned to listen to its customer, “to hear what you need to make your life more beautiful.”

It’s unclear whether that will bring back the customers JC Penney lost under former CEO Ron Johnson’s tenure at the company. Johnson, who had been head of Apple stores, got rid of JC Penney’s popular discounts to simplify the pricing at the stores. That caused customers to flee, and sales plunged by $4.3 billion in his first year.

Last month, JC Penney replaced Johnson with his predecessor, Mike Ullman. That caused JC Penney’s stock to fall even further. But it has been recovering in recent weeks as the company shores up its finances. JC Penney had been burning through cash to revamp its stores, a plan established by Johnson.

To reassure the market and JC Penney vendors, the store had been seeking additional cash. It recently got a $1.75 billion loan commitment from Goldman Sachs, which helped send its shares up. That’s all good news for JC Penney’s finances, but its performance on the storefront is unclear. Most of JC Penney’s customers fled to to Kohl’s or Macy’s. A recent brand study shows JC Penney has now fallen behind Kohl’s in terms of positive impression on customers.

The YouTube ad is aimed at those customers, but it remains to be seen how many will see it. JC Penney has the oldest customer demographic among its rivals, meaning many aren’t watching YouTube. But JC Penney also notes in its ad that it’s listening to customers on Facebook, too.

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