JC Penney today announced that President Michael Francis is leaving the company-immediately. CEO Ron Johnson, a former Target exec who plucked Francis from his throne at Target to help reinvent JC Penney, will assume responsibility and oversight of the company’s marketing and merchandising functions, the retailer said in a statement.
JC Penney suffered huge first quarter losses – $163 million – after its dramatic shift in strategy, eliminating coupons in favor of everyday values. JC Penney underestimated the power of coupons and promotions to make shoppers feel like they are getting a deal.
It seems to me JC Penney shot itself in the foot by unleashing a flashy, fresh, Target-like ad campaign touting the reinvention of the brand before the stores were actually reinvented. Most of the promised changes, including stores-within-the-store and designer partnerships with fashion stars like Nanette Lepore, are still months away. Most JC Penney stores are still tired looking and in need of updates–a turn-off to the more upscale shoppers they hoped to attract with the new branding and funny Ellen DeGeneres ads.
Francis, who lives in the Twin Cities and even set up a small JC Penney satellite office in Wayzata, wrote the book on designer partnerships and is largely credited with creating Target’s fashionable reputation. To make him the fall guy seems, on the surface, shortsighted–that is, if JC Penney plans to push ahead with its retail revolution.