J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson is going all in with his bid to remake the customer experience at the century-old department store retailer. A mobile point-of-sale deployment beginning this fall is just the first step in an ambitious plan involving storewide use of RFID to eliminate traditional cash wrap stations, allowing anywhere, anytime checkout, including self-checkout, by 2014. "J.C. Penney will be moving to a 100 percent [item-level] RFID implementation by Feb. 1, 2013," said Johnson, speaking last week at the Fortune magazine Brainstorm conference in Aspen, CO. "We'll be doing something that no other retailer has done completely."
Thus far, the dramatic makeover of J.C. Penney has hardly been smooth sailing. The overhaul, in which coupons and nonstop sales have been replaced with lower everyday prices, has resulted in confusion among consumers and months of subpar sales, as well as the recent ouster of a top executive. Nonetheless, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson is sticking with the plan to revolutionize a tired old brand — and perhaps retail as a whole. Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, Johnson, a retail superstar who spent years building up Target and the Apple Store, made one eye-opening comment after another.
It's every seller's nightmare: a glitch that results in products being listed — and sold — for a penny instead of their regular price. It happened for about 15 minutes on Tuesday to some Amazon.com sellers, but the third-party vendor whose clients were affected said it's making good. Appeagle was pushing an update to Amazon in order to conform to the marketplace's new requirements for repricing software when it noticed a problem in one line of code.
Visa and MasterCard agreed to pay retailers $6 billion to settle a price-fixing lawsuit that alleged they overcharged companies billions of dollars in credit card transaction fees. The agreement is believed to be the largest settlement ever of a private antitrust case, according to lawyers for 7 million American merchants who sued the card companies in 2005. The total value of the agreement is $7.25 billion, counting a temporary reduction in card fees.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz is looking into sourcing its clothes in yuan payments to protect its purchasing costs from further strengthening of the U.S. dollar. "A lot of our rivals have already begun paying directly in yuan," H&M's Head of Investor Relations Nils Vinge told the newspaper. Vinge added that doing so will become easier as China loosens its tight grip on the currency. The Swedish retailer sources the majority of its clothes in Asia, and about 80 percent of its total purchasing costs are in dollars.
In advance of the company’s press conference today, Paypal is announcing that it's secured partnerships with three of the top point-of-sale providers, giving it access to nearly 40 million terminals worldwide. The partnerships are important because it makes rolling out its in-store payments technology to retailers much easier. To date, PayPal deployed its service to all 2,000 Home Depots, but it has a long way to go in meeting its goal of having 20 major retailers by the end of the year.
Customers who wish to pay their bills in person can now do so at Kmart through the retailer's new CheckFreePay walk-in bill payment service from Fiserv. The program is available at all Kmart stores nationwide and accepts bill payment from more than 3,000 companies — everything from electric, gas and cable bills to credit card statements and auto loans. Through Kmart's new bill pay program, customers are able to pay thousands of bills for $1.50 or less per transaction with cash or a PIN-based debit card at any Kmart store nationwide.
Gucci has launched its own mobile point-of-sale program at select directly operated U.S., Europe and Asia stores. Gucci is leveraging technology to create a unique customer experience and to better serve clients when they're shopping in its stores. The pilot program launched at the Gucci flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City with additional trials at the Paramus, N.J. and Orlando, Fla. locations.
When eBay buyers were unable to pay sellers with PayPal one day last week, it was a big deal — PayPal is practically mandatory on the online marketplace. On Saturday, eBay executive Christopher Payne sent an email to sellers informing them that eBay had sent buyers who were affected by the glitch a coupon. Of special interest to sellers was his promise that eBay would automatically remove negative feedback for transactions affected by the glitch.