The last few years have been very tough for big retail department stores. Consumer shopping habits are changing. Expectations are different and lifestyles are shifting. The Old Way hasn’t been able to shift quite fast enough to grab the Millennials like they did their parents and grandparents.
Sears tried to pull out of a dive by acquiring Kmart, and that just made a bad problem worse. Now they’re selling off some of the most iconic brands in America in order to, well, nobody’s quite sure what’s coming next for Sears. Except more store closures. The retailer has been hemorrhaging cash, so store closures were a necessity.
Macy’s, too, has been struggling. It’s been a long time since Miracle on 34th Street turned the retailer into a household name. Recently, the company has been scaling back mall locations, limiting product lines and trying to find a way to be profitable at remaining locations.
But perhaps no retailer has demonstrated the ups and downs more than JCPenney. The department store has tried multiple different iterations in order to become more relevant and profitable. Remember the real price initiative and the bright 60s-style adverts? Yeah, customers didn’t want that. They wanted to be fooled into thinking they were saving rather than spending. Consumer psychology for the win. So Penney’s went back to telling customers what they wanted to hear.
Guess what, it may actually be working. After a disastrous start to 2016, Penney’s seems to be picking up. They brought back appliances and invested heavily in advertising that pitted them against big box home improvement stores and across-the-mall competitor, Sears. Other efforts to make the stores more visually appealing have also paid dividends. Sales are up, profits are growing, and the company reported a “less than expected” loss for the second straight quarter.
Yes, in today’s marketplace, a “less than expected loss” is actually good news. Penney’s is capitalizing on this success by adding new brands and expanding current product lines in order to deliver more value to customers. Will that bring new buyers back into the store? Time will tell. But, for the immediate future, they’ve stopped the bleeding. Triage worked. Now management has to get them winning again.