WICHITA – Took a little time Sunday afternoon to wander through JCP – you know, the retailer formerly known as J.C. Penney – in Towne West Square. It was my first trip since the company’s new CEO, former Apple wunderkind Ron Johnson, opined publicly that the retailer’s customers were “tired of all those sales offers,” a true warning shot that sounded an awful lot like an “uh-oh” to a now-former Penney’s regular like myself.
I used to frequent the store. Good clothing and the best prices in the market, along with friendly, knowledgeable clerks.
So much for all that.
Here’s the short tale for those of you who haven’t been to JCP: Prices are universally about 20 percent higher. Not a sale to be found, and about half the customers of a normal Sunday to boot. The store’s staff has also been cut in about half, and those who remain have been turned into shrinkage hawks, roaming the store demanding that shoppers account for that pair of pants they held in their hands five minutes ago.
In short, in at least one store the Apple genius has re-created Sears, and we all know how that one’s working out. Worse, there’s no cool whiz-bang electronic gadget with a fruit logo to be found to save the day, just the same Nike shirts that used to be $45 and are now selling for $60.