J.C. Penney Bringing Back Coupons, Discounts

J.C. Penney, which had famously said it was eschewing coupons and sales in favor of “Fair and Square” pricing, is now offering more and more discount-oriented promotions. 

On Dec. 8, the retailer sent customers on its mailing list a Friends and Family coupon, promising a 20 percent discount on every item in the store for three days. The jewelry section of its website now touts a 20 percent discount on all fine and fashion jewelry items. There are similar offers for watches.

That came on the heels of a Black Friday sale, and a $10 “gift” emailed to customers on Oct. 12. And in a recent walk-through of a J.C. Penney store, retail expert Bob Phibbs found no shortage of 20-percent-off and 30-percent-off signs.

“Even though [CEO] Ron Johnson had said that Penney’s would be a place without sales and discounts, [there] were signs showing exactly the opposite,” Phibbs wrote.

These moves clearly “indicate a departure from the long-term vision,” said J.P. Morgan analyst Matthew Boss, as quoted by CBS MarketWatch, adding that he believes the “long-term vision and model [are] clearly in a state of flux.”

Despite all this, J.C. Penney spokeswoman Kate A. Coultas said the company is committed to everyday low prices.

“We continue to believe in the importance of great everyday value,” she says. “It has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of our pricing strategy.”

The company’s move away from discounts and coupons has come at a steep cost. The retailer’s most recent quarter showed sales down 26 percent and the company recording a $123 million loss. Johnson said he expects to “return to growth” in 2013.

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