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JC Penney: The Golden Rule Store
by David Farside
Dec 10, 2012 | 2605 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Shoppers busily circled the isles of the shopping mall between Sears, Macy’s and JC Penney, searching for the best values they could find. I parked myself by the play area in front of JC Penney’s waiting for my friend to finish her shopping. It didn’t take long for a woman to interrupt my people watching and sit at my table. I suppose I seemed harmless with my white hair, long beard and attached to the seat of my wheelchair.

She seemed determined to have a conversation, forcing me to put my people watching on hold. She said she has three children and they were in JC Penney’s getting a free haircut before they had a free family portrait taken in their photo shop. Penney’s gave free haircuts to kids K-8 everyday during the month of November. During the month of December the free offer has been limited to Sunday’s only. As a holder of a few shares of JC Penney stock, I was interested in her view of the company’s turn-around program. She said it was like a Christmas present, getting free haircuts and a family portrait with the kids.

In 1902, James Cash Penney opened a general store in Kemmerer, Wyo. It was a mining town of about 1,000 residents, had a company store that operated on credit and housed 21 saloons where most of the spare cash was spent. He had two revolutionary ideas for his new store — cash only and do unto others as you would have them do to you. He named his store the Golden Rule Store. His middle name was actually Cash and had nothing to do with his way of doing business.

The 27-year-old said, “Setting up a business under the name and meaning of Golden Rule, I was publicly binding myself, in my business relations, to a principle which had been a real intimate part of my family upbringing. To me, the sign on the store was much more than a trade name. We took our slogan “Golden Rule Store” with strict literalness. Our idea was to make money and build business through serving the community with fair dealing and honest value, and we did business cash-and-carry.” Here we are 110 years later and Penney’s is still attempting to revolutionize the retail business under the philosophy of the Golden Rule.

Penney’s new CEO Ron Johnson is gradually modernizing his stores. Using “a store within a store boutiques” theme complimented with everyday low prices and new check-out policies that will add for better customer service, his bottom line should increase.

After about an hour, three happy children ran to their mother, pulled her by the arm and couldn’t wait to have their free family portrait taken. It was their Christmas present to grandma back east. If Ron Johnson could have seen their faces I‘m sure he would have been proud.

Targeting his advertisements toward people of all walks of life, including gays and lesbians, and providing free services for children, parents and families in need, certainly meets his obligation, commitment and dedication to the founder’s philosophy of doing business under the banner of the Golden Rule Store.

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.
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