JCPenney: Will you survive?

JCPenney is a place of mixed feelings for me. I’ve visited a few locations spanning 2 different states and they each vastly differ from the other. The California locations in San Diego and Orange County are so sad and depressing that I usually can’t wait to get out of there. I only visit them if someone I’m shopping with wants to go or if I really want to go to the Sephora inside JCPenney. The California locations are often empty and the clothes do not look appealing. The displays look outdated and the floors are usually dirty. I view JCPenney as a place to score some cheap clothes that are better quality than the usual Forever 21 standard. I can’t even bring myself to browse the store for a quick deal since it looks so unappealing to me. I’ve also been to an Ohio location and the store and vibe is much different there. The JCPenney there was clean, the store was easy to navigate, and the displays looked appealing. The last time I went was for Black Friday, a day where stores can become messy but the store was brimming with shoppers yet wasn’t messy.

There is obvious potential for JCPenney. Clearly, they are doing something right at some locations since they are brimming with people but not at others because those stores are empty and rejected.  I think JCPenney needs to tap into their different markets and research how different locations view JCPenney as a company. There has been talk of JCPenney losing sight of their core customers because of their pricing. Instead of giving out coupons like they normally do, they started to slash prices instead. Personally, I like the coupon method because I can choose what item I want to buy for a lower price instead of seeing something I want and passing it up because it’s not on sale. Now, they’ve mostly reverted back to the coupon method but they lost many customers in the process since the lower price method was too confusing for them.

Their partnership with Sephora was most likely started to help with foot traffic and advertising. However, if people go inside JCPenney to shop at Sephora and aren’t enticed to browse the clothes there as well then this needs to be changed by adding trendy displays near the Sephora stores. Whenever I go to JCPenney in California for the Sephora stores, I don’t stop to browse the store on my way out. The displays don’t call out to me or look trendy so I am not tempted to make additional purchases there.

Overall, JCPenney as a whole looks sad and dejected. I’m not saying they should become a fast fashion trendy company but no one wants to shop at a depressing place. In fact, becoming a fast fashion store would most likely hurt them and alienate them further from their current customers. There has been talk of closing down JCPenney stores that are not doing well and aren’t making profits which is good so that they can focus on the remaining stores. JCPenney has been working on rebranding the company by carrying some trendier brands and working on partnerships with designers. One partnership they pursued is the one with Aaron Marino, or Alpha M. Increasing their partnerships and endorsements with influential people in the fashion and entertainment industry will help potential customers view JCPenney in a new light. Hopefully, they can work on the overall appearance of the store itself so people will want to actually shop in them. As for the online shoppers, I don’t believe that JCPenney will be able to gain more shoppers that way unless they make their stores and brand more appealing. People currently reject JCPenney because they don’t find it appealing so they will not be likely to shop online if they don’t find items they want there. JCPenney has potential and I’ll be watching to see if they tap into it or continue their downward spiral to join Sears.


Urban Outfitters: Still relevant?

Urban Outfitters is a line that is unique and trendy, with a slight hipster vibe to them. Their visuals are what really set them apart, and they take the time to change their wall decorations to complement your shopping experience. At least, this is what the brand meant to me a few years ago. A month ago, I passed by an Urban Outfitters store and  I couldn’t remember when I had last gone into one. I decided to walk in and look around, breaking a very long Urban Outfitters dry spell for me. I was greeted with a store layout that was considerably messier. Urban Outfitters sells accessories, home merchandise, books, and clothes and it can be difficult to arrange all the items in a visually pleasing layout. I found myself having to do a lot of loops around the store in order to take everything in, and there was a lot to take in. The entire vibe of the store was overwhelming and would serve as a good reason to opt for the online experience instead.

On top of that, the only time I hear about Urban Outfitters anymore is when they sell some kind of clothing that ends up offending someone. Granted, I used to applaud their efforts to push the envelope but their attempts to sell shock-worthy clothing have been particularly distasteful lately (see: Kent State Sweatshirt and Navajo print clothing). What is even up with Urban Outfitters’ obsession with using the term “Navajo“? I’m all for a risqué PR campaign that gets people talking about your brand but having your brand constantly associated with offensive clothing is way overdone. In fact, in between each offensive clothing incident, I don’t really ever hear a peep from Urban Outfitters for any other reason. I’ve pretty much forgotten about the brand except for the times I see them in the news for doing something offensive or if I pass by their stores. Relying on offensive clothing to stay relevant is a poor way to market to your demographic. Urban Outfitters, while you were uploading pictures of “omg such cute Navajo” clothing, a lot of your fans moved on to lower priced attire. It is not a secret that their sales have been down.

That isn’t to say that Urban Outfitters can’t pick itself back up. In fact, a lot of their styles are still spot on, albeit a little pricey for their quality. Urban Outfitters needs to clean out their closet and stop relying on offensive clothing to bring in the sales, as it clearly doesn’t really work anymore. In this day in age, everyone is offended by something and the line between cheeky and offensive is thin. Furthermore, Urban Outfitters needs to redo their layout so that their vast assortment of merchandise is not such a headache to take in. A store like Urban Outfitters has historically relied on foot traffic in their stores as part of their appeal. It was a place to hangout and shop at with their gag gifts and trendy clothes. Hopefully Urban Outfitters can get it together and clean out their closet before they become completely irrelevant.

Brandy Melville: Who is John Galt?

Who is John Galt? Or, J. Galt as he is now often referred to at Brandy Melville. I’m sure the majority of the pubescent girls that crowd the Brandy Melville stores are unaware of the store’s close ties to Ayn Rand’s collectivism ideals. Upon entering the store, you might just think that this is another young girl’s store filled with cropped tops and casual beach wear. If you can get past the gaggle of teenage girls, you’ll see that the store is one size fits all, which hilariously angers a lot of people that can’t fit into their clothing. The whole one size fits all mentality doesn’t really bother me. Sometimes I’ll fit a shirt, and sometimes I won’t. But, anyone with an understanding of how marketing works will know that you can’t cater to everyone, lest you lose your selling edge.

So, who is John Galt? Look closely and you’ll be able to catch the store’s subtle messages scattered around. Sometimes there are copies of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand lying around Brandy Melville which in my opinion, is the book that captivates her message the most. Ayn Rand’s writing often has elitist sentiments throughout her stories and it is this elitist aura the Brandy Melville feeds off of. I remember when I first walked into Brandy Melville, I saw a shirt with one of her quotes on it: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Intrigued, I did some browsing and saw some John Galt labels on some of their shirts while others just said Brandy Melville on them. It wouldn’t surprise me if most teenage girls just thought to themselves: “Wow, I love this cropped top. Hmm, this shirt says John Galt on the label. Who is John Galt anyways? Oh well, this top is cute.” The subtle curiosity over who John Galt is in Brandy Melville perfectly aligns with Atlas Shrugged. I had read Atlas Shrugged a few years ago so I knew immediately “who is John Galt.” John Galt is an unidentified character throughout the majority of Atlas Shrugged. Throughout the story, the characters in the book wonder to themselves: Who is John Galt? In the third half of the book, it is revealed that he is an entrepreneur and a symbol of Ayn Rand’s individualism. Ayn Rand believes in objectivism, acting in your own self-interests, capitalism, and prevailing over mediocrity.

Is anything actually unique in this world anymore?  A quick search into any fast fashion clothing store will reveal collections of clothes that are similar to Brandy Melville’s style. With the rise of Brandy’s popularity, one has to wonder if the clothing line is a step above the fast fashion mediocrity that they try to scoff at. If all the teenage girls start to wear Brandy or styles that are similar to Brandy, then they are no longer embracing individualism and will all start to look the same with their similar styles. Can one really claim to be an individual if their peers look the same as them? Who is John Galt? John Galt is an idea that Brandy Melville tries to embody to distinguish themselves from the other fast fashion brands. We’ll see how long this trend lasts in the quickly changing minds of teenage girls.

Uniqlo: Overhyped Asian clothes?

I remember the first time I stepped into a Uniqlo store very clearly. I was doing some after Christmas shopping in Downtown San Francisco and decided to check out their new store. Upon entering, I was met with an uncomfortably warm heat wave generating from the the vast amounts of people inside. There were flocks and flocks of mostly Asian people rummaging through piles of clothing everywhere. The store was a hot mess that had been thorougly picked through. The clothes were plain, basic items and I didn’t understand what the hype was.

Fast forward to almost 2 years later and a new Uniqlo has opened by my house. Because of my first visit I always referred to Uniqlo as “that store with plain clothes that all the Asians go crazy for.” Nevertheless, I decided to venture into Uniqlo again and was greeted by a nice girl and some really bright lights. Uniqlo has some extremely bright, unflattering lighting in their store. It’s as if they want to shock you into looking at all their bright, colorful clothes. I walked past a mirror and was shocked at how pale and ghostly I looked. This time though, there weren’t flocks of Asians fighting over plain looking clothes. I was able to try on a few of their items without too much of a hassle and decided on a jacket and sweatshirt. As I exited the store with my new items, I chuckled to myself because I do have a habit of buying things from stores that I claim to hate. Today, my black Uniqlo sweatshirt is one of my favorites. I have a similar one from Gap but it just doesn’t compare in quality and warmth.

Well Uniqlo, I guess I have changed my mind about you after giving you a second chance. I do secretly still think it’s an over hyped company with plain looking clothes but they’re good quality and have reason prices. I still really wish they would do something about their lighting though because it’s shockingly bright. I’ll revisit them again when I want to stock up on my basics and get blinded by some bright lights.