“Fair & Square” Revisited

When we first took a look at the new JC Penney “Fair & Square” strategy back in March, the initial read was so-so from the consumer standpoint. In our monthly “Hot or Not?” feature, more deemed it “not” (58.3%) than “hot” (41.7%), though JC Penney Women’s Clothing Shoppers* seemed the most willing to give the strategy a chance, particularly compared to Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart shoppers.

Flash forward to June…

In the wake of JC Penney’s disastrous Q1 earnings report, we decided to again poll our nearly 9,000 consumers for an update on their “Fair & Square” feelings. As you can imagine, it’s not faring so well; over the past three months, those who think JCP’s new direction is “hot” dropped nearly 14%:

Hot or Not? JC Penney's "Fair & Square" Ad Campaign

But the real issue here is how “Fair & Square” has affected JC Penney’s consumer share. A look at 10 years of BIG historical data on the current Top 5 Women’s Clothing retailers tells three tales:

1. The Decline of Walmart
2. The Rise of Kohl’s
3. The Macy’s / JC Penney Clash

Women's Clothing - Shop at Most Often

Let’s leave Walmart and Kohl’s out of the story for once and make JC Penney and Macy’s the main characters. As you can see, since Macy’s nationwide conversion in the mid-2000s, these two department stores have been tangling pretty consistently for third place in this category – with JC Penney generally the victor. However, a magnified look at each retailer’s performance over the past 13 months shows just how damaging “Fair & Square” was for JCP’s customer base:

Women's Clothing - JC Penney / Macy's Snapshot

Instead of driving shoppers to its stores, “Fair & Square” sent its customers right into the arms of competitors. #whatanightmare

* A selection of Women’s Clothing retailers was analyzed for this report. “Women’s Clothing Shoppers” are defined as those who shop most at a given retailer for Women’s Clothing (an unaided, write-in response).

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUN-12 (N = 8760, 6/5 – 6/12/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

  1. James Brooks
    June 17, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for the update BIGI. I’ve commented on this strategy before.

    I don’t grasp the concept behind titling this strategy “Fair & Square”. If I was a long-time, loyal JCP customer, my personal knee-jerk response would be, …I guess JCP has been gouging me all this time. If I had made a $25 purchase in January and that same item was now $20, I’d be upset.

    I’ve seen numerous discussions on how brick and mortars are trying to combat showrooming. To me, announcing Fair & Square would encourage me to look online or comparison shop before buying anything at JCP.

    I see a great opportunity for Macy’s to capitalize on this campaign. Something akin to no gimmicks, always fair, why be square, etc.

    • June 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      The numbers prove that Macy’s is winning – at least partially because of JCP. The Macy’s CFO has commented on it several times.

  2. Sally Jean
    June 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Dear Mr. Brooks! Your deduction was right. JCP was gouging people all that time. The sticker price was never the real price but many times, it was far over what it should have been. As a former employee – until May – the fair and square pricing did usher in much, much lower prices. That is, however, until they sold out the old items and brought the exact same things back under different brand names and jacked the prices up as high as any place else. After they let tons of employees go from management down, and made it unsafe for employees – 2 employees per floor in a huge store – and brought our pay down, I decided it was time to leave. The sad thing was, we were all so excited about the new pricing until we saw the exact same stuff coming in under different names at MUCH higher prices than the highest prices they had. And that, was ‘Fair and Square’. The new CEO is greedy and has made many poor decisions. For example, taking out all custom type sales (commissioned and full service) and offering low wages in return. Customers will no longer get that one-on-one customer service in drapery, men’s suites, fine jewelry, and shoes as they once did. It has become ‘Anystore USA’ with what will soon be much higher prices!

  3. tscott
    June 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I love this blog, so great to see such detailed information and analysis.

    Keep up the great work!


  1. June 18, 2012 at 9:01 am
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  3. June 27, 2012 at 9:05 am
  4. July 17, 2012 at 9:01 am
  5. September 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm

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