I went to JCPenney today in Ann Arbor. Reason: I needed a business blazer or a similar piece of business clothing.

While I didn’t like the styling of the blazer that on was on the rack, I found a light cardigan that I fell in love with and will be perfect for the business dress events I expect be at this winter and spring. It had the new everyday price “red tag” and cost only $22! I also found an ivory colored fashion scarf for $15 that still had the older-format price tags.

By the time I make my next visit to JCP, the new pricing scheme will have settled in.

Officially on Feb. 1, the retailer is shifting away from the pattern of discounts and coupons that shoppers have learned to expect in favor of a program called “fair and square pricing.” Here’s the press release, but you probably have seen the campaign mentioned this week in the business headlines, newspaper advertising or in social media. It’s actually one part of a major shift in how the department store will do business.

Now, as a customer who has to plan on an out-of-town trip any time I want to shop in person at JCP rather than on the web site, I will find the new pricing system to be a convenience. I won’t have to time my errand to a sale. I’ll time it to when I can drive to Ann Arbor, Toledo or Novi.

So … why don’t more stores do this?

I don’t remember where I saw a TV clip this week that explained how the cost of a typical JCPenney purchase would settle out. But it made perfect sense to me, because I’ve explained the concept before. And it is this:

When you offer the lowest available price to everyone, it won’t necessarily be the lowest price that some customers have enjoyed before. The concept just averages the total savings out to everyone.

Here’s a piece I wrote a couple of years ago called: Why not give the lowest pricing to everyone?

I’ve had this question more than once from readers and class participants:

“Why is it so much hassle to get the discount? Why don’t stores give everyone the lowest price?”

Now, I have never taken a class in retail management. But I did take an economics class in college and I’m a shopper who is willing to play some of the retail discount games. So I think I can explain the situation:

Let’s say a store has three doo-dads that normally sell for $1 each. The store is willing to take an average of 10-cent discount on them.

One option is that the store could sell two for $1 and the third one for 70 cents.

If you were the business owner or store manager, knowing that not everyone can get “the deal,” what rules do you put on the 70-cent pricing?

Is it the employee-only pricing? Is it the college student, teacher, senior citizen or military discount? Is that the shopper card deal? Is that the coupon you put in the newspaper? Do you double the savings off the manufacturer coupon? Is that the discount program you have for unemployed families in your community? Is that the Facebook special? Is that the coupon code that you post on your web site?

I’ve seen all of those marketing gimmicks, by the way, at various businesses and retail outlets in southeast Michigan.

Or, the store could take the easy route and sell all three of the doo-dads for 90 cents each. Remember: it’s the bottom line that matters to the business. They were expecting a total of $2.70 in receipts for selling three doo-dads.

But if you were the shopper who knew another store would sell you that doo-dad for 70 cents because you are a special demographic, or because you were willing to put in some time and effort, how happy are you to buy that doo-dad for 90 cents?

The reality is: a lot of tricks and tips do exist to help you to save money at the grocery, discount and drug stores. But discount policies and procedures do vary quite a bit from one business to the next. You’ll also find variances from one city to the next depending on what marketing approaches work best in those communities.


You need to match the money-saving tricks you are willing to use to the store where they work best.

So here’s my take on this:

As a JCP customer, I’m pretty happy with the shift. I’m so short that regardless of whether I fell into misses or women’s sizes, I have always had a difficult time finding clothes that fit. Over the years, JCP has been consistently the place where I can find business attire that not only fit me — but was affordable. Now I don’t have to grab a coupon code or flier when I would rather put my attention on fit and style.

But I know what it’s like to talk to the couponers about their savings. Everyone asks me at a coupon class “What’s your best receipt?” I teach them instead to monitor their monthly expenses. Here’s why.

Are other customers willing to pay attention to their yearly spending on clothes, or will they still look for the percent off on a particular day’s receipt?

Good luck to JCP on rewriting customers’ expectations.

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