JCPenney: Remodel, rebrand breaks away from prior demographic

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Sarah Jane O'Keefe -- Sam Truax tests out the new technology that was incorporated into JCPenney stores. The store installed iPads and  other new Apple Inc. technologies when a former Apple executive took over as chief executive officer at JCP. These  iPads are a part of a new feature called the Levi’s Denim Bar.
Sarah Jane O’Keefe — Sam Truax tests out the new technology that was incorporated into JCPenney stores. The store installed iPads and other new Apple Inc. technologies when a former Apple executive took over as chief executive officer at JCP. These iPads are a part of a new feature called the Levi’s Denim Bar.

It was not that long ago when going on shopping trips with Grandma to the mall included her favorite store Penney’s. She took her time shopping, and to any young child, this felt like an eternity. Fifteen years later, the store that was once dreaded now wants some attention.

That is the hope and marketing strategy that J.C. Penney Inc.’s new chief executive officer, Ron Johnson, a former vice president of Apple. Inc., is bringing to the brand. From previous experience alone, one could judge that whatever he brings to the company will be successful.

What exactly is going on with the 110-year-old retail chain? Johnson has a plan that includes rebranding the department store into one filled with specialists and technology and creating a prime shopping experience. This means incorporating Apple technology to assist and streamline customer service.

Alexander McMath, junior mechanical engineering major, said he thinks the “remodel” in pricing takes away from the fun of shopping.

“Getting the surprise deals are the fun of shopping,” McMath said. “It’s lame to have just a flat price.”

McMath went on to say that the remodeling may help bring a younger generation of shoppers to JCP, but he said that the company will lose their older clientle.

The remodel of JCP includes much more than repainting the walls and ordering new furniture. This remodel even goes as far as creating specialized features within their stores.

An example is denim manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co. There is now a Levi’s-trained staff that helps customers with fitting their jeans in a new shopping experience called the Levi’s Denim Bar.

This experience includes the Levi’s specialist fitting customers for the best jean fit possible based on style, shape and wash. If the specialist is unable to find the right fit, an iPad will be available to find a better option for the customer. This is just one of many examples of how Johnson has enacted his remodeling plan for a new JCP experience.

Another way this former Apple executive is bringing new life to the previously declining store is through rebranding the company altogether.

The name is now being referred to simply as JCP, rather than JCPenney. This acronym still stands for the classic JCPenney but has a more modern touch for the key demographic Johnson is trying to capture.

Dr. Keanon Alderson, associate professor of business, said he thinks the remodel plan is fantastic for the brand’s image.

He said that the company has realized its downfalls and will bring in a younger generation of shoppers but believes it may take a while. While there has been some criticism of what the remodel means and if it will be successful or not, Alderson believes it will be.

“Can you imagine a store as sexy as the Apple store?” Alderson said.

Overall, the department store may be getting a remodel, but it is more than that, JCP has been given a second chance at life, even as its current demographic diminishes. The key will be building a new demographic while still retaining their older clientle.

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