JC Penney Apology Ad: Mea Culpa Aims at Winning Customers Back

Image: JC Penney Apology Ad: Mea Culpa Aims at Winning Customers Back

Thursday, 02 May 2013 09:27 AM

By Michael Mullins

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J.C. Penney has released a new apology ad under the rehired CEO in an effort to win back former customers who strayed from the department store because of major changes in recent years.

There was a 25 percent drop in sales last year after the company implemented new policies under the direction of Jon Johnson, the CEO of the company who was recently fired.

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In the 30-second advertisement, a soothing female voice narrates the retailer's plea to former customers. Women try on clothes and apply makeup, while children embrace. At the end, a baby releases balloons into the sky.

"It’s no secret, recently J.C. Penney changed. Some changes you liked, and some you didn’t. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn.

"We learned a very simple thing: to listen to you, to hear what you need, to make your life beautiful," the narrator says. "Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you. Now we’d love to see you."

After losing $4.3 billion in sales in 2012, including a 28.4 percent drop during the holiday season, the retailer acquired a five-year $1.75 billion loan from Goldman Sachs in April to strengthen its finances.

Additionally, in April, billionaire financier George Soros announced he was acquiring a 7.9 percent stake in the retailer via a regulatory filing.

J.C. Penny's failings have been largely attributed to Johnson, who was hired by the department store chain in November 2011.

During his reign, critics say Johnson alienated long-time customers by dropping popular brands the retailer had carried for years and moving away from discounts in exchange for more expensive, "hip" brands that appeal to younger shoppers.

Prior to coming to J.C. Penny, Johnson was the former merchandising vice president of Target and also helped build Apple's empire.

On April 8, Johnson was replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman, who served as J.C. Penny's CEO for the past seven years.

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"While J.C. Penney has faced a difficult period, its legacy as a leader in American retailing is an asset that can be built upon and leveraged," Ullman said, following his rehiring last month. "My plan is to immediately engage with the Company’s customers, team members, vendors and shareholders, to understand their needs, views and insights . . . To establish a foundation for future success."

Several other executives left J.C. Penny immediately after Johnson's departure, The Los Angeles Times reported.

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