Small Talk: J.C. Penney has reinvented itself with new merch and sassy marketing
by Annette Maddox
Special to The Star
Aug 26, 2012 | 3039 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Its old slogan was “I love your style.” Its glossy magazine-ish ads in the Sunday newspaper (and the cute little booklet ads in magazines themselves) make me happy. There’s no longer a need to hide the fact that you shop there (because, let’s face it, we all know what “Jacques Penet” really means); suddenly, shopping at J.C. Penney is OK (possibly even cool).

That’s right — J.C. Penney. It’s back, and it’s super-sassy. The chain has changed everything from its pricing strategy and store layout to its exclusive merchandise lines, all thanks to chief executive Ron Johnson, who was hired away from Apple. In a mega-metamorphosis, the 110-year-old retail giant has peeled back the dusty, crusty layers to reveal a shiny new shopping source.

Long gone are the days of deep discounts and cheesy coupon-filled ads; they’ve been replaced with simple, more predictable pricing in a straightforward, snappy presentation, to the tune of a monthly advertising budget in the tens of millions of dollars.

Plans include carving each of its stores into about 100 sleek, neat sections featuring specific brands or product categories, starting with the addition of two separate shops per month at each store.

Penney’s has already had success with its Sephora cosmetics boutiques, as well as its MNG by Mango fashion stores. Word is that Penney’s 1,100 U.S. stores will bring in brands including home goods icon Martha Stewart and fashion designer Nanette Lepore. More exclusives are coming. Although they had me at Sephora …

Change has not come without controversy. Penney’s use of gay couples in its advertising, coupled with its hiring of Ellen Degeneres as spokesperson, sparked boycotts and protests from some conservative groups, which may have had effects opposite those intended. After all, publicity is publicity.

In case you haven’t heard, Penney’s is offering free back-to-school haircuts for kids (K-6th) through Aug. 31. Call 855-JCP-KIDS or stop by your local salon to book. How’s that for smart PR?

All I know is that I am dying to snag Penney’s new i jeans by Buffalo, along with some cute tri-color Worthington wedges and Call It Spring Braca studded flats, a Relic cross-body handbag and a colorful Bisou Bisou geometric-print dress.

J.C. Penney’s overhaul has impressed me. I will admit that I never even glanced at their old ads, and never shopped there, either. Now? Not so much. It actually takes a bit of willpower for me to leave the store, so those millions of dollars they’re spending to lure me in seem to be doing their job.

Heck, J.C. Penney’s ads make even a KitchenAid stand mixer look fresh, new and exciting. Maybe I should start baking …

To share your news with Small Talk, contact Annette Maddox at

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