AP News

On the Call: J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson

NEW YORK (AP) — J.C. Penney Co. reported massive losses and plunging sales for its fiscal fourth-quarter as the department store chain's plan to ditch coupons and most sales events has continued to turn off shoppers.

The results, released after the stock market closed Wednesday, mark a full year of massive losses under CEO Ron Johnson, who took on the role in November 2011 to overhaul every aspect of Penney's business, from a new pricing plan to new brands. The plan, which focuses on everyday low prices, has been the riskiest and has been watched by the retail industry.

During a conference call with investors Wednesday, Johnson personally took the blame for the company's mistakes and said that while Penney will still embrace its everyday low price strategy, it will have sales every week. Johnson estimated the number of sales will be about 100, still well below the 600 that the chain had in 2011. The discounts will be focused on the company's private-label merchandise like Arizona and select national brands. It will also bring back coupons for its rewards customers.

QUESTION: What have you learned?

ANSWER: Experience is making mistakes and learning from them, and I have learned a lot. I had a personal conviction to deliver everyday value beginning with truth on the price tag. You all know how important that is to me. We worked really hard and tried many things to help the customer understand that she could shop any time on her terms. But we learned she prefers a sale. At times, she loves a coupon. And always, she needs a reference price. Whether there's a manufacturer suggested price on a branded item, a comparison on a private-label item, or a sale, she needs to feel she added value to her family through the savings she got from being a savvy shopper.

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