JC Penney Retail Turmoil Offers a Lesson in True Change

If you’re a regular reader of our blog articles, you know I’m a strong advocate of change, the expansion of comfort zones, and calculated risk taking. Embracing these strategies is the only way you’re to going to succeed in today’s very competitive, ever-changing chaotic environment.

However, I also recommend that every organization recognizes the critical importance of enlightening its staff to the tips, tools and strategies of dealing with the challenges of change as well as the consequences of change, both negative and positive. Based on the number of requests we’re receiving for change management, more companies are seeing the advantages of this training.

In a previous article, I stressed the importance of “not changing for the sake of changing” as we have often witnessed the negative consequences of doing so. I used JC Penney as an example as it was promoting some rather radical changes in its efforts to regain market share. My fear was that JC Penney was biting off more than it could chew and that its customer base would not welcome these changes with open arms.

Today, the media revealed that my fears were justified. JC Penney announced that its CEO Ron Johnson has been ousted from the troubled retailer. Johnson, who formerly headed Apple’s wildly successful retail operations, was brought on by JC Penney in November 2011 in a bid to boost lagging sales, and he quickly made a number of radical changes to the century-old retailer.

Those changes made little or no difference, as I had predicted, as sales dropped a whopping 25% in his first year as CEO. Same-store sales were down 32% in the fourth quarter. As the share price dropped like a rock — it’s lost more than half its value in the last year — big investors fled for the exits.

What was even more surprising than his short reign was the fact that JC Penney replaced him with the former CEO Myron E. Ullman III. Nothing like adding insult to injury. I could be wrong, but that decision certainly sounds like another recipe for disaster!

Over the past decade, Sears, Kmart, Montgomery Wards, and JC Penney — once the top four U.S. retailers — have certainly demonstrated what can happen when you slack off, make poor decisions, rest on your laurels, and make changes for the sake of change. One of these giants has already disappeared, and industry experts have little hope for the longevity of the remaining three.

You might want to keep your eye on these major retailers to learn a valuable lesson in the fine art of avoiding extinction. In the meantime, I’ll continue my crusade across the nation sharing the insights of “Productive Chaos: Riding the Wave of Change” to those who want to be prepared for future challenges in dealing with change!

Call Dr. Jeffrey Drake at 1-800-886-2629 for more information about this critical program.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.