JC Penney Downplays Rumors of CFO’s Departure as Shares Tumble

Ken Hannah, JC Penny’s CFO

JC Penney is one of the major corporations struck hard by the 2008 recession that has struggled regaining its foothold in the market. First, there was its failed re-branding effort, which was so dismal that Forbes proclaimed it was “epic.” Heavily vaunted marketing campaigns during the Oscars and the Super Bowl hardly did anything to boost JC Penney’s sales. In fact, even their “fair and square” pricing initiative was found to drive customers away from the store, not into it.

The slippery slope got steeper when JC Penney board member Steve Roth reportedly dumped 40 percent of the company’s stake, or 10 million shares, saying that it “wasn’t worth the effort” to hold onto them. As summer 2013 draws to an end, JC Penny is at their lowest point since the end of the Clinton administration despite their aggressive marketing and re-branding efforts.

So what gives?

While an official analysis might not be widely accepted until after the JC Penny situation fully unfolds, it seems likely that a never-ending string of public relations missteps have left this once-formidable company not very formidable or impressive at all.

Most recently, rumors have swirled that the department store’s CFO Ken Hannah would step down as CFO, especially after share prices have dropped over 18 percent in the last month alone. Regardless of company struggles that have been widely publicized, JC Penney quickly denied rumors concerning its CFO.

As the company quickly denounced rumors surrounding the CFO, it showcased their ability to define the conversation, and thereby their potential to regain their influence in the future. JC Penney did this by:

  1. Addressing the situation immediately. Before more speculation could arise over Steve Roth and his position as CFO, JC Penney’s immediately denounced the charges that he was leaving.
  2. Focusing on the positive. Regardless of their current struggles, JC Penney’s branding efforts have reminded us that they have been one of the most trusted clothiers and American brands for over a century.
  3. Committing to a strategy. While it’s not certain whether their current strategy will pay off in the long-term, it’s clear that JC Penney is dedicated to pursuing their current strategy to the fullest effect.