Penney’s new chief executive, Ron Johnson, who launched Apple’s retail stores, told the Associated Press that the idea is for “customers to shop on their terms, not ours.”
But will customers buy it? “It’s a highly innovative strategy, but it’s risky,” said Rafi Mohammed, a pricing strategy consultant and author of “The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow.” Shoppers have become accustomed to a system whereby “they know Kohl’s and Macy’s are having sales every week.”
So how do Penney’s everyday prices compare to sale prices at its competitors? Last weekend, we took a very unscientific shopping trip to Springfield to visit Kohl’s, Macy’s and J.C. Penney.
The results are in: Penney’s everyday prices were comparable to clearance items elsewhere, proving that stores know the bottom-line price you’re willing to pay — whether a product’s on sale or not. From men’s Levi’s to basic white bath towels, here were the going rates.
Men’s Levi’s Jeans
Whether you were buying 505s or 569s, men’s Levi’s jeans at J.C. Penney were $40. Any style, any size. At Macy’s, Levi’s 569 jeans were on sale for $42.99, down from $54. Similarly, Levi’s at Kohl’s were on sale for $42.99, originally $58.
J.C. Penney had a better selection and consistent prices, making it easier for men to shop for the necessity.
Women’s Knit Sweaters
Need a heavy knitted sweater in a solid color? All three stores had similar sweaters priced from $20 to $25. Kohl’s and Macy’s were originally priced at $50 and marked half off, while J.C. Penney had Liz Claiborne sweaters priced between $20 and $30. The styles and fabrics were nearly identical, but the brands differed, which often affects a shopper’s decision.
There wasn’t enough of a price variation to make a difference. Buy your favorite brand, whether its Liz Claiborne or Simply Vera by Vera Wang.
The Junior Headband
Every department store had a version of the peacock-feathered headband. J.C. Penney had the cheapest ones, at $10 to $12 and made by Arizona and Decree. Kohl’s had similar headbands by Candies at $20 each; two for $30. Macy’s had the most sophisticated feather headbands, at $22.
Conclusion: Macy’s juniors’ department tends to offer higher-end products at higher prices. If you’re looking for a fashion statement, choose Macy’s. If you’re looking for something your teenage daughter can misplace, go to J.C. Penney.
The Basic Bath Towel
Where do you go if you want a cheap bath towel? Certainly not Macy’s, which sells a plush
micro-cotton Hotel Collection towel for $18. J.C. Penney was the only store selling cheap, cotton towels worthy of your gym bag — in every color for $4. Kohl’s had the best deal this week, with “The Big One” cotton towels selling half-off, for $5. They were of slightly higher quality than the Penney’s variety.