‘‘The strategy will be helpful for shoppers to understand lower prices,’’ Flickinger said. ‘‘At the same time, it will be tough to get consumers back in the store from competitors.’’
But Craig Johnson, another retail consultant, said that adding the suggested manufacturer’s price is just a gimmick. ‘‘The objective of this exercise is to maximize the perceived value for the purchase.’’
Johnson said that for Penney’s own store brands like Arizona and Worthington, the team will research other stores and will submit supporting data to its legal team for approval before it advertises comparison prices, using certain criteria. For example, they'll make sure the fabric used is of the same quality as its rivals. For jewelry, Penney is using the International Gemological Institute, a third-party appraiser.
‘‘There are no makeup prices here,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘It’s all about trying to communicate what it’s worth to the customer.’’
Penney will not show comparison prices for merchandise that is part of exclusive partnerships with brands such as Nicole Miller and Mango, however. The company said it’s difficult to offer such references.
To promote the strategy, Penney on Wednesday will begin launching TV, print and digital ads. One TV ad compares a $9 polo shirt under its store brand Arizona with $19 ‘‘elsewhere.’’ ‘'Two polos, same color, same vibrant, same details, same swing, same swagger, different prices,’’ the ad said.
Johnson reiterated that he expects Penney to return to sales growth sometime in 2013. That would be a welcome change for Penney, which has had steep sales and profit losses since the new strategy was launched.
For the first nine months of its current fiscal year, Penney lost $433 million, or $1.98 per share compared with a loss of $65 million, or 30 cents per share in the year-ago period. Total sales dropped 23.1 percent to $9.1 billion.
Analysts expect Penney to post a loss of 17 cents on sales of $4.22 billion for the fourth quarter. They expect the company’s annual sales to fall by 23 percent, or nearly $4 billion, to $13.3 billion for the latest year. Revenue at stores opened at least a year — a measure of a retailer’s health — are expected to drop 25 percent, in line with the third quarter, according to analyst polled by research firm FactSet.
Meanwhile, investors have sent shares down more than 55 percent from a peak of $43 in the days after the plan was rolled out in February. Shares slipped 18 cents to $19.17 on Monday.
‘‘A year ago, we were launching a major transformation and didn’t know what to expect,’’ he said. ‘‘Today, I know what happened. Our team has a year’s worth of history. This is going to be a great year because the new JCP is coming to life for customers.’’
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