Customers (and those closest to customers) know best

By Joe Truncale
In April 25, 2013

The recent news about the stunningly short tenure of JC Penny CEO Ron Johnson is a business school case study of executive overconfidence and borderline hubris. Johnson was hired away from Apple retail stores and was hailed as a retail expert; the perfect person to take JC Penny to the next level. One of his first moves was to stop all discounts, coupons and sales. After all, this seemed to work just fine for Apple. The remaining customer-facing executives at JC Penny cautioned Johnson against this approach. There was no vote taken; however, JC Penny customers did vote and they did so with their feet. Sales declined about 25% as shoppers in search of a sale were forced to look elsewhere. What can we learn from this?

Six very insightful words come to mind: Copy the strategy, not the tactic.
Tactics that work in one setting may not fit another. Sure there are no sales or coupons or discounting in Apple stores (at least, not yet). But no one has been known to camp out on the sidewalks outside JC Penny stores in anticipation of the release of the new Fall line of St. John’s Bay women’s wear.

There are many sound strategies for getting people into major retail stores. And some of these will prove effective in a variety of settings. But the tactics employed by Apple stores are, like most tactics, unique to Apple. Those same tactical approaches are not guaranteed to work in other environments. But sound strategy, implemented with tactics unique to your specific business situation can often work wonders. Copy the strategy, not the tactic. Something to think about.

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