JCPenney No. 2 Exec Takes Fall for Failed Turnaround Strategy

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J. C. Penney Company, Inc. today ousted its JCPenney brand president, Michael Francis, who oversaw the retailer’s merchandising and marketing operations, with a terse statement that “We thank Michael for his hard work at jcpenney and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Francis, who was hired last October “at great expense” (as the New York Times retail reporter tweeted, in light of his whopping $12 million signing bonus) from Target is seen as taking the fall for his boss, company CEO Ron Johnson, the former Apple top retailer who oversaw JCP’s new brand strategy in January. Now, of course, the heat is on Johnson to clean up a mess that was arguably of his own making.

For an executive whose goal is to “simplify” matters internally and externally, it was Johnson who championed the idea of killing coupons and sales in favor of “fair and square pricing” (a reference to its logo), so-called “monthlong value” and “everyday low” pricing and twice-monthly clearance events on every first and third Friday (aka “payday” in America). The brand recently scrapped that strategy and is re-embracing the dreaded s-word — “sale.”[more]

The mid-price retailer also angered conservatives by showing real-life gay dads and lesbian moms in its Father’s Day and Mother’s Day catalogs. Now that Francis is out, his former boss — whose hiring was announced a year ago although he didn’t assume the top job (and his multi-million dollar signing bonus) until Nov. 1st — “will assume direct responsibility and oversight of the company’s marketing and merchandising functions.”

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