🌪️ My new book is available for pre-order! Reserve your copy.

Sales on sales when the sales sale at JC Penney

Remember when you were a kid and you had to go to the mall with your mom and you’d always get dragged into JC Penney? Here in Indiana it’s just “Penneys”, but everything gets an “s” tacked on to it in here in Indiana — Krogers, Burger Kings, Kmarts, and my personal favorite, Walmarts. As in, “Let’s go to the Walmarts”.

I last remembered thinking about JC Penney when Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, Ron Johnson, left to go makeover JC Penney. Johnson came in among slumping sales and stodgy stores. This is the guy that made Target what it is today and is widely credited alongside Steve Jobs as having made the Apple retail experience what it is.

So his first order of business was to ditch the sales, rename the place to just JCP, and it was all under the justification, “Who shops at JC Penney when you assume everything you want will be on sale next week?” After a few quarters where things didn’t magically turn around because customers thought exactly that, they fired him and brought back the old guy. Because why not run with success, right? Now to give customers what they seemingly want, it’s a never-ending fire sale at JC Penney.

So it came as a surprise to me that JC Penney is still a thing that millions of moms go to every time there’s a sale. Which is now all the damn time. There’s never not a sale at JC Penney and that is, evidently, that small core of shoppers likes it.

JC Penney is the epitome of a company that can’t change for fear of offending the small group of people that actually like them, despite the fact there’s not that many of them and fewer and fewer each year.

The “sell the sale” approach is a tactic they’ve repeated on their website.

A look at JC Penney without the ads

But just how much of JC Penney’s homepage is just an ad? Almost all of it:

JCP Sales Website

I’m also including the “Brands we love” section near the bottom because I fail to see what that has to do with anything. It’d be like if you went to Comedy Central’s website and they had an “Electronics we love” section at the bottom or Wal-Mart said, “We fucking love Lays”. It serves no purpose other than to be an ad they’re no doubt being paid for.

Surprisingly, if you do a keyword scan on the site the top three words are:

  1. “Shop” (28 times, or about 5% of all the words on the page)
  2. “Off” (19 times)
  3. Store (12 times)

But to drive this home, here’s what their website looks like when you take out all the ads and use of the word “SALE” and “CLEARANCE”:

JCP - No Ads


Not much left but some awkward stock photos. Ot doesn’t say anything — about like JC Penney itself.

Want to know when stuff like this is published?
Sign up for my email list.

Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

Leave a Comment