JC Penney: We're Sorry ... Now Come Back and Shop

JC Penney
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Recognizing it made mistakes in its attempt to reinvent itself last year, J.C. Penney launched a social media and television campaign Wednesday asking shoppers to come back.

Sales plunged 25 percent last year after former CEO Ron Johnson largely eliminated coupons and sales in favor of regular, low prices. The disastrous move alienated Penney shoppers, who had grown used to discounts and deals.

Penney posted a video on Facebook featuring images of classic J.C. Penney stores from the 1960s and family scenes with a female voice-over saying, "What matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing—to listen to you."

The narrator ends with: "Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you. Now we'd love to see you."

The video also appeared on YouTube and will run on broadcast television this week.

Though ad agency Young & Rubicam helped with the execution, Penney's internal marketing department came up with the concept several months ago.

"This campaign sends a clear message that we listened, and now, we're doing everything we can to bring customers back," Penney spokeswoman Daphne Avila told Reuters by email.

One customer who identifyied herself as Tammy Pennington left a comment on the Facebook post that said, "Next time, remember this, If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Johnson, who was recently ousted and replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman, was brought in to stabilize the ailing retailer and sought to turn Penney's larger locations into emporia with 100 boutiques for hip but affordable fashion and home goods.

Some comments on Facebook were in support of those efforts, which included the addition in March of Canadian fashion brand Joe Fresh.

On Twitter, Penney invited shoppers to tell the company what parts of Johnson's transformation it should retain and what it should restore. It created the hashtag #jcplistens.

Late in his tenure, Johnson reintroduced some coupons and promotions, but those appear not to have stemmed the slide.

Wall Street analysts expect same-store sales in the first quarter to be down 12.7 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data, adding to the urgency for Penney to win back its shoppers. The company is set to report quarterly results later this month.