Three Reasons Why JCPenney’s Latest Strategy Won’t “Check Out”

Sorry, but I have to continue my JCPenney rant. I didn’t gloat when they admitted that their strategy to de-coupon the stores was a failure. Or when more top level folks gave up their mission to coolify. But today’s news that CEO Johnson is planning to rid the stores of those pesky cash registers and ‘expensive’ cashiers at checkout just can’t go unnoticed.

 

Let’s start with checkout. While every retailer likes to brag, “We want to be a destination store,” instead they ought to promise, “We want to be the evacuation store.” Once women have given a retailer their precious time, they want to get the heck out of there as fast as possible. With the exception of the apple store and maybe anthropologie (where we pretend we are adopting a languid, poetic lifestyle!), women want to bolt and get on with their day.

 

Now it’s true that some mass retailers have taught customers to accept self-checkout. But JCPenney, the store for women who are already doing it all, isn’t WalMart or apple and anthro-anything. And I predict that while someday we may all be asking our mobile phones to talk to a kiosk, we are not all there yet and in this category, we expect more. Here’s why this I predict this initiative will be put in the slow lane within months.

 

The customer: Just a guess: the largest segment of JCPenney customers are women with a low to low/mid HH income, a more limited education, children to support and a technology repertoire that is more email and facebook than apps or code scanning. The loyal ones are likely older.  Just picture these women being asked to aim, scan, tap and tangle with tech when their kids’s humor is wearing thin or their tired feet are giving out.  At the first hiccup, I see them dropping the merch and heading out the door for good.

 

The product: I don’t care if I have to pack my own groceries, but clothes and the cute household decorations? Yeah, I’ve suffered through part-time clerks who stuff, wrinkle and ruin my discount finds in Marshall’s, but for the most part, I feel like the cashiers, pretty much all of whom are women, try. Because they’ve been there. What’s so special now about JCP (Who?) if they make you bag your new bought sheets and clothes and kids’ stuff like it’s off the back table of the dollar store. Even they have cashiers.

 

The experience: For the shoppers who go to Penney’s for a little treat, now the store is taking away one more customer service perk and replacing it with what? Maybe improved customer service that will cost them more because they either have to hire more trained people or spend more money training the ones they have…the ones, whose heads must be spinning by now with the changes that start and stop? We know that eventually, we will all be checking out alone, but for store whose hold on their best customers is so fragile, was this the only way to save 10% of costs?

 

Before the board allows Mr. Johnson to add another apple-esque idea to a store that doesn’t have apple’s customers, products, staff, environment, juice or core, can someone say it might be time for someone else, as smart as he is, to checkout?

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Groupon: The Good, The Bad, And The Risky

After describing how Groupon ruined her group-ohm, Just Ask a Woman CEO and Founder Mary Lou Quinlan continued the discussion with radio host Jim Blasingame on his show, The Small Business Advocate, where she dissected the whole truth about social networking, word of mouth, and Groupon: the good, the bad, and the risky.

Didn’t get a chance to tune in? Check out the segment below.
(And don’t miss the first part of the segment HERE!)

Want more insight? Catch up with Mary Lou’s previous interviews HERE.

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Whose Word Of Mouth Can You Trust?

Just Ask a Woman CEO and Founder Mary Lou Quinlan joined radio host Jim Blasingame on his show, The Small Business Advocate, where she dissected the whole truth about word of mouth, social networking, and transparency in marketing.

Didn’t get a chance to tune in? Check out the first part of the segment below.

Want more insight? Catch up with Mary Lou’s previous interviews HERE.

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Busy Busy: Is She Too Busy, Or Just Too Busy For You?

Half Truth: Women are too busy to spend time on themselves.

Whole Truth: Women are busy, but they’ll make time for the things they really want to do.

Over the last couple of years, we have started to notice a trend. Even the busiest women are finding all kinds of ways to play hooky by either accepting less ambitious goals for themselves or secretly doing fun stuff, like spending hours online under the guise of work.

In research we did for megasite about.com, women, claiming they are doing research for their families, admitted that they quickly drift into shopping, downloading from iTunes, playing games, posting product reviews, and just zoning out on favorite blogs and sites. If women are so pressed for time, you’d think surfing the Internet would be squeezed into the scarce wee hours. But though midnight pops for women’s online usage, the Whole Truth is she’s online all day at her computer in the office, her BlackBerry in the checkout line, checking her cell when she awakes. Interestingly, moms of young kids, likely the most time-squeezed women, are online the most.

Brands that create escapes for women find that they are only too willing to spend their time and money, when the reason is right. Look at the hours spent posting e-pinions and downloading music. How many women get intoxicated with the craft details on etsy or the product descriptions on eBay? Tripadvisor is a delicious way to fantasize about potential vacations, and photo websites such as kodakgallery have women cataloguing memories like professionals. All these activities take time women are willing to give, no matter how crammed their schedules are. Don’t assume that ‘I’m too busy’ means she is. She’s only too busy for what’s boring or unrewarding.

Want to learn more about half and whole truths? This post is straight from our book, What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Read the first chapter online HERE, and grab a copy for yourself from Amazon.

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Women Are Responsible For This Year’s Hottest Brands.

Adage’s 2010 Hottest Brands list is out and from the brand names on the list, it just goes to show the power of the female consumer.

With moms 32% more likely to use smart phones than the national average, it’s no wonder the Droid is at the top of the list followed by Glee (we’re quite the gleeks over here at Just Ask a Woman) and our personal favorite, Groupon

We know the power of the female consumer, which is why we’re not surprised to see Old Spice on the list.  We fell in love with the new campaign targeting the female influencers in men’s lives.

We are also glad to see Dawn dish soap made the list.  Procter & Gamble has done well combining innovation, value messaging  and saving the environment – from recession to oil spills, this brand knows how to make women feel good and clean.

U by Kotex has done a fantastic job getting young women to feel more comfortable in what we like to call, the “pink ghetto” ( That aisle in the supermarket or drugstore that we quickly walk down or avoid altogether.)  We especially loved that the campaign poked fun at typical advertising in this category.  Breaking the cycle can be difficult for many brands. Companies can learn from their brave move.

And while there are quite a number of other brands that made the list that can link their success to women, Reebok’s EasyTone also has Katrin Ley, Head of Brand Strategy, Business Development and Women’s Sport Business, to thank for the growing toning category. They have sold 5 million pairs of EasyTone in the U.S.

And while My Pillow Pets and Silly Bandz have a much younger audience, we know who is laying out the money for these as well.

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What the blip

I recently read an aritlce on cnn about a new website, blippy.com. When you register, you link your credit card to the website and it publicly displays (a la facebook status) your purchases (ex. “dudup spent $1.29 at iTunes – Empire State of Mind (Part II)” )……and so?

I don’t get it, worst part is that in the interview with the founder he admitted he wasn’t sure what the point was either-seriously? As a marketer I can see the advantage of being able to track spending, but only if your target registers on the site.

I guess if you really coveted your friends shoes, but did not want to ask her where she got them or how much she paid for them, you could turn to blippy where *hopefully* she purchased them with her credit card.

How many moms do you think are going to visit blippy in the hopes that someone is purchasing milk at three different locations near them so they can price compare?

The strangest part is I can’t stop thinking about blippy….maybe it’s because I’m a closet shopper who would be mortified if anyone could see that every time I visit CVS I easily spend $100. Just curious-who are you blippy users and what do you use it for?

Das jeweilige Arzneimittel und das Original haben keine Unterschiede bezüglich der therapeutischen Wirksamkeit. Mit einem Arzt Kontakt aufzunehmen, können Sie schnell und einfach Cialis 20mg kaufen ohne Rezept, meine Potenzprobleme waren wie weggeblasen und sind es bis zum heutigen Tag, 7% der Patienten, sie zu besorgen. Welches das Generikum von Kamagra ist und auch als Kamagra bezeichnet wird, meistens nur auf Post vom Zollamt.

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Thanks, But No Thanks

I try to not let a blog go by where I don’t mention my love of online discount designer websites (hello, ruelala). And when I first heard about Gilt Groupe and its special ‘invitation only’ I e-mailed them, told a small white lie that I was a regular on the NYC sample sale scene and heard female shoppers talking about a site and asked for an invitation.

I felt super cool when they promptly emailed me back and graciously extended an invitation. I love the feeling of exclusivity, as long as I’m on the right side of it.

There was a quick pang in my heart when my brother asked me if I needed an invitation to Gilt the other day. It became a little less cool to me; the exclusivity lost a little bit (a 29 year old male asking his cool younger sister if she had heard about something hip, why of course I had).

So when I was doing some work research (no, really) and came across Daily Candy’s shopping site, Swirl, I clicked to sign up.  Unfortunately, I was greeted with a “we’ll let you know when we’re ready for you”. Huh? I felt rejected.

About 10 days later I got an e-mail “We’re ready for you…Bet you thought we forgot about you.” Seriously? Just the way to make a girl feel special.

Thanks, Swirl, but no thanks. I’ll stick with gilt, ruelala, beyond the rack, ideeli, etc.

Half Truth: I want to be part of the inner circle

Whole Truth: But I don’t want to feel like I’m elbowing my way into it…

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It’s All About the $$$

Citibank’s Women & Co announced their new ad campaign yesterday that will run through November. It looks great- beautiful, lots of diversity, real women’s stories, help, assistance, etc. For me, a girl who grew up in the land of airbrushed models and advertising overload, I say nicely done, but I’ll stick with LearnVest.

Full disclosure: I got a sneak peak at the website before it was fully launched, but I cannot say enough about it. It’s smart, easy, and as a product of “Generation Me”, it’s hip and personal.

I signed up for the LearnVest email, hesitant to add another piece of unread mail to my inbox every day, but was pleasantly surprised when I found that it provides a welcomed 2 minute relief from my work day (just like my ruelala daily glance). With provocative subjects like “The affordable way to be a foodie”, “How to drink wine on the cheap (without drinking cheap wine)” and “LearnVester Tax Questions, Answered!”, I immediately sent the site along to my friends (especially the one that just got a credit card and missed her first payment).

The best part of the emails is I know I can always click-thru to the website that provides honest information without the “you should already know this/be contributing to/you’re screwed and should’ve started this years ago” super serious connotation. Just what a woman on a strict budget needs; encouragement, helpful hints and advice that sounds like it’s coming from a (slightly more intelligent) friend, not a scary higher learning institution.

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Our Favorite Shopping Sites:

Since the urban legend is that all women like to shop we thought we would play along and tell you what online stores are making us happy right now. 

Jen: My favorite site right now is www.myluckyrewards.com. This is a discount portal offered to subscribers of Lucky magazine (fittingly a magazine about shopping).  When I feel like shopping I go to this site and can get cash back when I shop at some of my favorite stores.  All I do is click on a link and it takes me to my store’s site and just by shopping I get a percentage of my purchase back in cash and often free shipping as a bonus.  The cash comes quarterly in the form of a cash card and I have collected more than $500 back since I joined a few years ago.   My everyday shopping really adds up and I get deals like 7% back at drugstore.com, 5% at Target and Barnes & Noble and even higher paybacks from smaller, specialty retailers.  I’ve also found that retailers that don’t normally offer coupons like William Sonoma Home or Land of Nod participate in these programs which motivates me to buy from them.  Other magazines have similar programs and I also use Parenting Magazine’s site www.parentingprivileges.com   and Allure’s www.myallurerewards.com.   

Mary Lou: Ruelala.com is like having a friend who’s a fashion insider who takes you to secret pop up sample sale boutiques without leaving your desk and if you don’t buy, no one’s offended. As much we are curtailing our shopping this season (and forever, if this economic nightmare keeps up—or down), I’m lured in to their revolving, virtual ‘boutiques’ from James Perse to Lululemon, because they are only open for 48 hours. The pressure of a ticking clock and the “just two left” banners get my adrenaline pumping, plus I can tell what’s hot by which items sell first, so I’m clued in to scoop the best deals even in a backup color. And Ruelala.com celebrates your retail ‘victory’ with a big graphic hurrah and they score some great brands at decent discounts, even if a $1000 Judith Lieber bag is an expensive “bargain” for someone just needing a little retail therapy. I feel like a smart insider, even if I’m only a desktop voyeur in the sample sale world.  

Tracy: My favorite site right now is oldnavy.com. While there is a store right down the block from us, I love the fact that online I can get out-of-season clothing any time of year. As my holiday vacation to Hawaii quickly approaches, OldNavy was the perfect, inexpensive place to look for new bathing suits.  And with free shipping and free returns (pays to have a luxe card!) I don’t have to worry about not trying them on before I buy. This has taken the pressure off of buying in season. I love the flexibility… And speaking of flexibility, one of the new features on the website allows you to not only shop at OldNavy but also at The Gap, Banana Republic, and Piperlime – 4 stores, 1 check-out and 1 flat shipping rate (and again, luxe is free!) Because they’ve made it so easy I have definitely found myself wandering onto the other store’s pages.  

Jean: Not since my custom fit Levi’s jeans (which I still wish would comeback) have I had such a made-just-for-me shopping experience until www.shopittome.com . As a weary internet consumer I almost passed up the opportunity to sign up for the glory that is true personalized online shopping-because you create the content. While making my profile I chose which specific designers I wanted to see deals from and any clothing needs I had as well as my size details (pant length, shoe width, bra size, etc.). Every morning I receive an e-mail presenting the best deals organized by shopping site. It takes my favorites such as shopbop.com , nordstrom.com, endless.com  and bluefly.com and does all the leg work for me to find the best deals on pieces I’m guaranteed to like. 

Amy: When buying shoes or boots, I always check out Zappos. For me it comes down to a very large choice of styles and brands in one place that I can’t find at my neighborhood store. And, most importantly, FREE shipping and FREE returns. Plus they are FAST which fulfills my desire for immediate shopping gratification (They recently ended free overnight shipping which is a bummer but you still get the merchandise within just a couple of days). Shopping for shoes can be a real hit or miss proposition but I have my system for success. I usually have them send a size up and a size down as well as few different styles/colors/brands. I get them really fast, keep what works for me and return everything else, no problem, no hassles, no extra costs. And I check their sale selection first as I can often find the brand and style I want with only a minor variation from the full price item– like last season’s color or a small style difference. Also, their peer reviews are excellent. Other shoppers give really honest feedback on the shoes and help steer me in the right direction.

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I can’t get enough of…racked.com emails

racked_ny-2.jpg 

Although shopping is one of my favorite hobbies I’m beginning to have less time to do it, never mind look for the best deals or the coolest new store openings so when I found out about racked.com, an up to the minute blog about all the fashion happenings in NYC (and the brother/sister of eater.com and curbed.com), I named it my official one stop shop for all things fashion. But then I got busy one day and another day I was traveling and I forgot to check it and missed the Betsey Johnson sample sale! So I was beyond ecstatic when I was browsing the site and signed up for the e-mail list. Now I get an e-mail everyday right before lunch that I never miss checking (unlike fashionweekdaily’s email that comes around 5pm each night that I hardly glance at). It has the top stories, a “dealfeed” highlighting the best sample sale(s) and, my favorite, the e-mail scan.   

The e-mail scan is ingenious, not only does it sum up the latest news with links to other websites, it tells you what sites have not been updated (so you don’t have to bother stopping by them) and highlights their favorite news.

If only all of my interests (finances, travel) arrived in my in-box researched and organized. The racked e-mail gives me the best of the best and takes no more than 5 minutes to read, guaranteeing I’ll always have time for fashion.

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September 15, 2019
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK

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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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