JC Penney Downs Discounts


I felt great about purchasing these pants prior to the new pricing.

Pants: JC Penney

T-shirt: Target

Blazer: Target

Scarf: Target

Flats: Payless

Like the outfit? Click here for more details!


A classmate of mine asked for my take on the new JC Penney strategy, and after a discussion with my dad about the strategy, I decided to do a little hands-on research. JC Penney is the king of huge discounts, all the time, on all their items… at least, they were. This article details their new strategy to drop prices across the board to an “everyday value” price. They’re also moving to whole numbers, instead of the $19.99 or $29.99 prices, the tags will now read $20 and $30 respectively. So, what’s my take on downing the discounts?

My initial reaction was that the everyday value price was a smart move, but the whole number pricing was a bad move. When you’re in the dressing room (I use this example since I most frequently buy clothes instead of other items from JCP), you know the price on the tag is not the price you will actually pay. However, there’s no uniform discount, so you can’t really remember if the $69.99 dress is 40% off or 50%. Then there’s the extremely rare occasion where the item isn’t marked down at all. So, you pick out all the items you like, and then circle back through the aisles to try to determine how much money you’re actually spending. This is particularly important and frustrating if you’re on a budget, since the discounts drastically reduce the prices. As a marketer, I’m also frustrated that you’re trying to anchor me to a price that’s MUCH higher than I actually think the item is worth. I know full well I’m not willing to pay the price on the tag, and I know full well I won’t have to pay the price on the tag, but even with all my insight into this scheme, I still battle my human brain. And, my human brain automatically considers the number in front of my face, no matter how ridiculous it may seem! So, I don’t appreciate the mind games, JC Penney, just give me a price!

Now, JC Penney is giving me the price, but since they’ve trained me to reject the price on the tag, it’s quite difficult to break that habit. I took several skirts into the dressing room, and I had to force myself to consider the price as stated. I was happy to pay the $25 listed, but I felt like something was wrong about paying “full price” at JCP, even though the price was less than the amount that I valued the item. Again, all my marketing know-how pales in comparison to good ‘ole human instinct. The whole pricing was also a shock to the system. It’s one little penny, but for some reason, the price of $25 instead of $24.99 just made me feel a little off. Again, you’ve trained me to think I’m paying less than $25 by constantly knocking off the penny, so again, you’ve made me feel like I’m paying full price at a place that shouldn’t ever receive full price for an item!

The other issue with the whole pricing, is that they picked some odd prices for rounding. Signs with “$6 and up” or “37 and up”… what? At this point, you’ve now triggered my $10 price point or my $40 price point, but I’m not willing to pay $10 or $40. Again, I can analyze it to figure out why this bothers me, and rationalize that it’s silly, since I won’t actually have to pay $10 or $40. But still, had you told me $5.99 and $35.99, you’d trigger the lower price point that I am willing to pay. Further, the whole pricing just feel cheap, and JCP is trying to bill itself as quality. Again, it has very little to do with how much I actually value an item, and how much I’d actually be willing to pay for the item, and much more to do with how I feel during the buying experience. And, JCP is trying to make you feel better during the buying experience, as their competitive advantage and value-add. But they haven’t made me feel better, they’ve just made me spiral into a marketing nerd analysis of why I would normally be fine buying the $25 skirt, but today, it feels funny! (Granted, I’m a HARDCORE marketing nerd, so the general public probably doesn’t go through such analysis while buying, but the research has shown that the points mentioned above do affect people, whether they know it or not. So, sans crazy marketing rabbit hole, people might choose to abandon the purchase altogether!)

Long story short, this strategy has some major pitfalls to overcome, and it’ll be an interesting case study once the new wears off. How do you feel about the new strategy? Like the outfit? Click here for more details!

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