Christie Mowry, a 43-year-old mom in Missouri, loves shopping at J.C. Penney.
Just don’t steer her to the women’s section, which she says has become a dumping ground of striped shirts and ill-fitting capri pants.
“It’s like they think women my age should go quietly into their golden years without any style or personality,” said Mowry, a claims representative for an insurance company in St. Louis. “They have an antiquated idea of women my age.”
Like many of its peers, J.C. Penney has failed its most loyal shopper: the middle-aged, middle-income mom of middle America. Analysts say retailers, caught up in a millennial-chasing frenzy, have invested heavily in new store formats and trendy brand partnerships, making shoppers such as Mowry feel unwelcome and eating into companies’ bottom lines.
J.C. Penney and Kohl’s — which have toggled between courting moms and millennials — both posted disappointing earnings this past week. And Dress Barn, frequented almost exclusively by middle-aged working women, announced May 21 that it was closing all 650 of its stores.
Economics play role
“These companies are so busy trying to figure out who their shoppers are — Is it moms? Is it millennials? — that they’ve lost their most loyal shoppers,” said Bob Phibbs, chief executive of the Retail Doctor, a New York-based consulting firm. “Plus the customer experience is forgettable. Nobody is going into a J.C. Penney and saying, ‘You’ve got to see this place. It’s great.’ ”