J.C. Penney tries to make workers easier to identify
Best Buy Co.'s sales force wears blue shirts. Apple Inc. “specialists” are garbed in branded tees. J.C. Penney Co. associates can wear whatever they want.
The un-dress code is a legacy of ousted Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson, the former Apple retail chief who espoused a hipper, less formal vibe for J.C. Penney. The strategy has a flaw evident to anyone who has shopped at the department-store chain lately: You can't tell the sales workers from everyone else. That made it hard to ask for assistance and pay for purchases because Johnson removed many cash registers and put checkout devices in the hands of hard-to-find store workers.
As Johnson successor Mike Ullman tries to reverse a sales collapse at the century-old department store chain, he's restoring some basic ABCs of retailing — tenets he became familiar with during his previous stint at J.C. Penney. Before the back-to-school shopping season next month, store workers will be outfitted with red branded lanyards, Ullman said. The company is considering changing the relaxed dress code.
“We want to make sure there is no doubt who works for us,” said Ullman, 66.
In his bid to transform J.C. Penney into a fashion destination, Johnson encouraged store employees to wear designer jeans and graphic T-shirts. Customers who felt alienated when Johnson killed discounts and several popular brands found in the camouflaged store workers another reason to shop elsewhere. Sales last year plunged 25 percent, leading to a net loss of $985 million.
While shares of the Plano, Texas-based chain have rebounded 12 percent since Ullman returned on April 8, they remain down 47 percent from Johnson's first day as CEO on Nov. 1, 2011.
The dearth of cashiers led to more challenges: Where to fold and bag clothing? Where would bags be stored? What if the customer wanted a printed receipt instead of an emailed one?
Ullman's solution: put 2,800 wheeled carts in about 700 of J.C. Penney's largest stores that can be rolled to the busiest departments. Some will have a fully functioning cash register and all of them will give store workers a place to fold clothes, store bags and print receipts.
The 20 or so store workers packing checkout devices in each store will now wear a gray sash that serves as a holster. The chain is adding signs explaining how to check out.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. Steel joins major producers in new dumping complaint
- Consol Energy reports deep loss, bigger Utica results
- Ambridge’s PittMoss takes off with help from TV show, Mt. Lebanon native Cuban
- Leisure, hospitality lead Pittsburgh area job gains
- Muni bond funds stressed
- Plummeting natural gas prices slash revenue of Marcellus shale producers
- U.S. Steel to debut oil, gas pipeline connector
- Alcoa among 13 firms in $140B carbon-footprint pledge
- Bayer sets sights beyond aspirin
- Israel’s Teva drops bid for Mylan, buys Allergan for $40.5B
- Pitt to start Energy Law and Policy Institute