JCPenney reported earnings this week that were so bad they boggle the mind, writes Matthew Yglesias in Slate. (Maybe the worst ever in retail?) The chain has been struggling to reinvent itself under the vision of Apple retail guru Ron Johnson, and Yglesias decided to visit a store himself to see if the bad press was exaggerated. Unfortunately not, he writes. Johnson has managed to drive away the chain's faithful customers of old—"somewhat square, lower-middle-class moms"—without bringing in new clientele.
Take the idea of doing away with sales. It's proven to be a bust, and JCPenney has had to backtrack with a return to "clearance" pricing. "A policy initially designed to imply that competitors were duping their customers has become the reverse," writes Yglesias. "Here was JCPenney explicitly telling you that the list price is the real price and you shouldn’t expect discounts, then down the aisle—discounts!" At best, Johnson has managed to make JCPenney a little more like Target in its bid for hipper shoppers. Trouble is, Target is better at being Target. Meanwhile, JCPenney's old clientele base has only expanded in the lousy economy, and they're going elsewhere. Click for the full column.