Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
18 May 2020
JCPenney bankruptcy expected, COVID-19 or not
When news of the JCPenney bankruptcy spread over the weekend, was anyone surprised? The retailer can blame the COVID-19 virus all it wants. But the truth is more complicated than that.
Filing for Chapter 11 simply represents the final attempt to save the long-standing retailer, one that’s been floundering for decades. It’s been trading out CEOs and company logos like dealing cards in an attempt to find a sweet spot in the retail space.
Even if COVID-19 had never hit our shores, a JCPenney bankruptcy was all but certain. It’s been carrying massive amounts of debt, and quickly became an afterthought among consumers.
All you need to know is to ask yourself this question: Who is the JC Penney customer? How would you define them? What do they aspire to?
The JCPenney brand never answers those questions, often defaulting into a we-have-everything approach that doomed Sears. When you’re everything to everybody, you are for no one. The brand has lacked focus for decades, so a JCPenney bankruptcy became a certainty.
“The JCPenney bankruptcy was a forgone conclusion. But it could have been avoided oh so many years ago.”
JCPenney bankruptcy a predictable result
Just look at their offerings. The brand features bedding and bath accessories, window coverings, cookware, furniture and enough other products (clothes, jewelry, cosmetics) to make you wonder just who the hell JCPenney thought it was.
Certainly, the rise of Amazon and e-commerce conspires to kill most brick and mortar retailers. And the COVID-19 pandemic leaves many retailers wondering how to stay afloat.
The JCPenney bankruptcy allows the company to secure $900 million in financing. But it’s just a desperate attempt when the real problem has been staring its leaders in the face for some time.
The JCPenney brand lacks definition. Its absurdly large offerings suggests a restaurant with everything on its menu, meaning it specializes in nothing. JCPenney has become Applebee’s, microwaving whatever it has in the freezer to hopefully accommodate anyone.
The JCPenney bankruptcy was a forgone conclusion. But it could have been avoided oh so many years ago.
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