New J.C. Penney Ad: 'It's No Secret' We Messed Up

JC Penny
J.C. Penney
J.C. Penney's (JCP) quest to rebound from the disastrous reign of ousted CEO Ron Johnson continued today when it apologized to its disaffected customers in a new ad.

Titled "It's No Secret," the 30-second spot acknowledges the various changes the retailer has undergone in the last year and a half and admits that not every change went over well with the retailer's customer base.

"Some changes you liked, and some you didn't," says the ad's narrator, in what can charitably be described as a massive understatement. See for yourself:

The ad promises that the company will learn from its mistakes, the most high-profile of which was the "fair and square" pricing scheme, which did away with coupons and sales. Shortly before his ouster, Johnson himself acknowledged that the pricing strategy was a mistake, noting that "we learned [our customer] loves a sale."

The apparel strategy was likewise unpopular. Johnson brought in jeans "bars" and stylish boutiques from new brands like Joe Fresh, but in the process did away with "basic" apparel and favored brands like St. John's Bay. That alienated the retailer's older customers, and the company recently said it would start bringing back those departed brands in an attempt to lure back the faithful.

The ad went up on Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday morning, and attracted thousands of comments from J.C. Penney fans alternately praising the company for its honestly and angrily demanding changes.

"Bring back St Johns Bay get rid of all the sleezy stuff you changed to," reads one popular comment on the Facebook post. Another commenter demands that the retailer abandon its mobile checkout system, which is intended to make the checkout process more convenient but has attracted complaints from some shoppers and employees.

J.C. Penney had been on a bit of a roll since Johnson was replaced by former CEO Myron Ullman, but shares have been trending downward since Moody's cut its rating Tuesday and declared that a new loan it had secured from Goldman Sachs "will not solve JCP's longer term performance concerns."

UPDATE: About three minutes after tweeting out the link to this story, I got a reply from J.C. Penney's Twitter account:

I've noticed that other users tweeting at J.C. Penney are receiving similar responses; in cases where a user has made a specific suggestion, the person manning the account thanks the user for his or her feedback. The company's Facebook account is likewise taking an active role in the discussion and thanking commenters for their responses. And the company's social media team is rallying the discussion around the hashtag #jcplistens.

One of the big criticisms of Johnson was his penchant for charging ahead with big changes without first testing them with customers. While we doubt the new management is reading each and every comment, they clearly want to give the impression that they're more responsive to their customers than the old boss.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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Please, please bring back St. John's Bay and Cabin Creek!!! Both of these brands were shoppers favorites and had the best selection of sizes, colors, and patterns. It is a nightmare now trying to locate items in the store with the new "arrangement of little shops" and finding an employee for assistance is impossible. I have always preferred to shop J.C.Penney because of their merchandise, sales, and coupons; but, no longer.....unless it reverts back to customer friendly.

May 12 2013 at 1:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

JC Penny can make a big comeback. Stupid ideas happen all the time. Anyone remember Fedex and "Zap Mail"? It was the early days of the fax machine and no one understood how a document could arrive in another part of the world by putting a piece of paper in a machine. LOL

May 03 2013 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Carlos Lebron

want to recuperate?BRING BACK COUPONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

May 03 2013 at 3:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
David Gibson

CEO's are so far removed from the everyday struggling consumer! That they can't possibly see the forest through the trees! They surround temselves with yes men, and delgate all their work to others, while they plan their next million dollar home or ship purchase. I think these board members need a good **** cleaning too! All, they see is dollar signs! Ain'tthey gonna be suprized when all the money in the world evaporates overnight! They might have to **** in an outhouse for a couple weeks like some people still do today on reservations and in Alaska!

May 03 2013 at 1:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The dumbest thing that the guy did is to make handheld scanners, which means unless you do know the employee, good luck locating one if their back is turned to you helping another customer. Unfortunately nobody was in sight at either of the cash wraps and customers should not have to venture all ofer to be processed. So we stood at the register. Yes we were greeted when we weren't ready, but when we were ready she was busy out of sight. We'd gotten our $10 coupon for over $25. We get the lifetime discount anyway as my husband put his 20 years in.And my husband found the wool throw on clearance as an add on and there was extra off as well on that. So, we had 2 items regular price and several clearance items so multiple sorts of savings. The person began to scan on the hand held and the incorrect thing should be, are we paying with a card of cash as the scanners don't communicate with the registers. I won't pay with a card if they want to use the scanners anyway. Case in point. Receipt? Where does that come in? As it turns out the person rerang on the register, but I thought the amount was over what we'd figured, computing in my husband's head since he's a convenient calculator. Turns out he was right and the register failed to catch a marked down item. They'd done all the discounts correctly, except this was a $15.00 error on one item. So since we were there, we got it immediately corrected. With the hand held's wht about the receipts, let alone signing something that doesn't spit out the detailed transaction. No thanks to that. I'll take my cash receipt. I still say they should go back to paper receipts rather than thermal paper everywhere -cheaper.

May 03 2013 at 1:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elnaz Sarraf

We try not to make mistakes :-)

May 03 2013 at 12:18 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

AQ was great for JCP but after he left it was not as good. I think only 19% left NY for Plano. It did not transition real well to manage everything from the Home Office, and \"green\" people were making costly decisions. AQ never finished fixing the problems of centralization. All of these consultants ($$$) they paraded thru Plano diverted focus and funds from where they needed to be...

May 03 2013 at 12:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RMS--Pawleys's comment

Since the guy got rid of most of the experienced people in the stores, which means many familiar faces, as a cheap way to save money. He also hired morons for buyers apparently. Cute stuff, but the cheapest that JCP has ever seen. When they take someone who is clueless when it comes to soft goods and tries to aleniate all its customers, it adds up to failure. yet, I'm not so confident in aq either, didn't he recommend the hatchet boy?

May 03 2013 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The previous CEO tried to re-invent the wheel.

May 02 2013 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to barryismooslem's comment

he was totally clueless with soft goods and that market. Say you're a size 4 petite. You're in JCP, do you want to have to go to 20 places to find a pair of pants or do you want to go to petites and shop and that way pick up 5 or 6 pairs rather than get a workout and be all sweaty before finding one? Dumb.

May 03 2013 at 2:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't fix it if it ain't broke. It may never come back!

May 02 2013 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to maryfailco's comment

JCP has made it through some pretty hard times before and it survived because of James Cash Penney''s belief The Golden Rule

I'd forgotten that my husband has several of the golden rule awards that we gave the grandkids. They are little gold rulers with a diamonds.(and a ton of customer service awards over the 20 years). We both have confidence that JCP will thrive again. And they aren't the only retailers who have since made foolish changes. If the company thrives, let it, tweak changes, but don't mess with something because someone else has a piece of the pie in another area of the market. JCP is not Anne Taylor, The Gap and it certainly should never be on the same thought as Target. They are JCP, the company that others modeled a similar plan for their business. They are not Amazon, nor should they try to be. They are JCPenney and there is much to be promoted here.

May 03 2013 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Montgomery Wards deja vu... When's the court ordered liquidation sale?

May 02 2013 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ihuber1's comment

They are nowhere near that level.

May 03 2013 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply