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Find: The New JCP Everyday, Fair and Square

The ads heralding the new JCPenney pricing strategy (everyday value) and return policy (anytime, anywhere – can it be?) have had me excited to see what this veritable retailer could have in store. The ads are so clean, bright, and optimistic, like a mash-up of Target and Ikea. Can this be the same place?

Well, it is and it isn’t. I’ve long thought JCP had some well-priced, underrated merchandise, but found shopping there uninspiring in a downscale, polyester sort of way. The new strategy seeks to change that. Consider:

* Everyday pricing makes shopping so much simpler. Just look at the price on the sign – $10. Not a percentage off, not “priced as marked,” not “20% off plus an extra 15% with your store charge,” etc. etc. Just $10. I like that. I can figure the tax in my head and not pause at the register to ask, “does that total include the multi-multiple discount?”

* Where are all the prices ending in .99, .98, and .97? I notice them missing and yet I DON’T MISS THEM! That cents thing is just a mind game for lesser shoppers, anyway. I know how it works. To my mind, $14.99 has always been fifteen bucks, unless I was describing the deal I got to my husband, when $14.99 became “just over ten dollars.”

* Easy returns? You don’t know what this means. I’ve decided against many a purchase based on the spectre of a return. The post-purchase regret is sooo much more bitter when you have to produce three register slips and and two forms of ID. Thank you for sparing me the interrogation.

* These prices are truly reasonable. Sure, it’s a thrill to find something for dirt cheap, but I’d rather just have a good value and move on instead of trying to hunt down the rock-bottom best price. I like the thought of walking out with my purchase and not second guessing whether it will be $2 cheaper in the Sunday circular.

* Free furniture delivery and assembly within 100 mile radius? That’s a $50 value, minimum. Do you know how we have adjusted seats and smashed stuff into the SUV to save a delivery fee? Weeks later the driver’s seat still isn’t back to normal and I have to hear, “Ever since we stuck that table in here…”

Although the days of shopping from the JCP catalog are long gone, some of the older shopping mall locations still have the old heavy feeling of 10 pages of girdles. For instance, the Galleria location is still a little drab, like a sagging taupe couch with a few bright throw pillows thrown on. It’s coming around, though, and the newer stand-alone locations such as Alabaster and Trussville have a head start.

The new look, merchandise, and pricing policies are bringing me around to JCP. It will take more than pretty ads, though. The local stores will have to deliver. JC, I’m rooting for you.

* During the month of March, JCPenney portrait studios are offering a free 8×10 with no sitting fee. Unfortunately, whoever answered the phone didn’t know about the promotion, so I’ll have to take in my March mini-catalog to prove it. This might offset the convenience of the return policy…but I’ll reserve judgment. If the studio pulls out a wagon wheel prop and a mountain stream background, I will conclude the store reality hasn’t caught up with its Madison Avenue ad team.