Ever since the Great Recession of 2008, everyone from Target to Wal-Mart has been working to refine the way consumers shop. But none of the retailers are quite as adept at identifying shopper demand — and having it met — as J.C. Penney.
Seventeen years ago, the department store was considered to be on the verge of bankruptcy, as it struggled to establish a digital sales channel.
At the time, the company’s strategy focused on selling everyday low prices for an array of products, creating a complex supply chain. Today, however, J.C. Penney’s online sales are more than double their physical sales, and the retailer is working to have a website that has the functionality to fulfill same-day delivery orders.
For the next six months, J.C. Penney will be giving the entire supply chain (everything from vehicles and trucks to warehouses and distribution centers) a complete makeover, transitioning from aging aging leased cars to fully owned Tesla vehicles in an effort to reduce energy costs and speed delivery times. The move is part of the retailer’s “Make it Better,” program that is focused on making shopping in the stores even better. “Consumers want to be in the store,” said Tony Dombrow, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “We have the ability to do much more in the store than we’ve ever done before.”
In August, J.C. Penney launched an “Shop with Me” feature that allows customers to browse online tools from anywhere in the store, with a store associate taking the order, on a couple of business days. Already, more than 250,000 products have been added to the system, and the number of items that are available is expected to grow exponentially in the next few weeks.
The retail landscape has been on a slow motion crash course over the past few years, as Amazon has displaced traditional players, like Macy’s and Sears, as consumers increasingly abandon the store for Amazon or a smaller number of other digital delivery options.
As retailers around the country and the world look to implement digital initiatives that will bolster their sales online, the J.C. Penney chain is seemingly at the forefront of the industry.
Through its digital partnerships with Dreamworks and Monster High, for example, the retailer is working to bring branded merchandise to the digital platform that will allow the image-centric kids’ series to join a large group of toys available through Amazon.
And this is exactly what Dombrow says the retailer will do: “We think there’s an opportunity to do good business with the world at large as well as in our own stores,” he said. “It’s really about leverage of our assets with an emphasis on our customers.”