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Is JCPenney's Francis to Blame or Convenient Scapegoat?

Stacey Widlitz |Retail Consultant and Independent Analyst
Tuesday, 19 Jun 2012 | 8:19 AM ET
JC Penny
Ryan T. Conaty | Bloomberg | Getty Images
JC Penny

Michael Francis headed for the exit Monday at JCPenney after nine short months with the company. Seems the "dream team" is not winning any medals.

Francis was responsible for marketing and merchandising, which will now fall under the control of CEO Ron Johnson — you know, the dream CEO that came from Apple?

After celebrating the one-year anniversary since announcing he will take the helm at the company just last week, as I said in my recent blog, there will be no love letters for Johnson. The stock price is now down more than 30 percent since it was announced Johnson would take the helm, raising hopes that he would transform JCPenney into "America's Favorite Store."

Little detail was given about Francis' departure. However, based on the recent marketing campaign that sent confused customers in to the arms of competitors, Johnson may have felt the need to clear the decks. Was Francis to blame or was he a convenient scapegoat?

At the end of the day, we are still left wondering what the damage was from a marketing campaign that took addicted consumers away from their coupons. Have sales actually bottomed as Bill Ackman suggested shortly after first-quarter same-store sales fell 18.9 percent?

If we could rewind the tape would Ackman, JCPenney's largest shareholder, still say the same thing? Only time will tell. The most recent departure leaves us to wonder how bad are the cracks at the upper ranks and are there more ripple effects to come?

Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years. Follow Stacey on Twitter @StaceyRetail.

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