Columnist Says Gay Inclusiveness to Blame for JCPenney's Slowed Sales

BY Lucas Grindley

June 10 2012 11:41 AM ET

A nationally-syndicated columnist is blaming JCPenney's new CEO Ron Johnson for his publicly inclusive attitude toward LGBT people as part of the reason for slowing sales.

Johnson is trying to transform the department store chain by adding new brands, bringing on executives from places like Nordstrom, and with a controversial everyday low pricing strategy that eschews coupons. Total sales in the first quarter fell 20% while same-store sales declined 19%. And most other business analysts have blamed the fall on the pricing changes.

"Mr. Johnson is alienating Penney's traditional customers in a bid to attract new customers from higher socio-economic segments that now shop Macy's, Nordstrom and Target," wrote Al Lewis of Dow Jones Newswires, which appears in the Wall Street Journal. "The result? Larger-than-expected losses, plunging revenues, dwindling customer traffic and a plunging stock price."

Lewis starts making his case by pointing out that, in observance of Father's Day, "Gay C. Penney" included an image of two real-life gay dads in its most recent catalogue. He also points out that the so-called "One Million Moms" have vocally objected. They also vocally objected to using comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as the company's spokeswoman because she is a lesbian. And Lewis says the group might have a point.

"It's fair to say One Million Moms hardly represents a million moms, and if it did, many of their children would be gay, according to the law of large numbers," he wrote. "It's also fair to say this organization, though often branded as antigay, is expressing a sentiment common among the middlebrow demographic that JCPenney serves."

One Million Moms is a subgroup from the antigay American Family Association, which is a "hate group" as deemed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. New CEO Johnson personally went on national television after the group attacked his company for hiring DeGeneres and called keeping her a "no-brainer."

LGBT customers launched shopping days in response. And Lewis says more of that's needed for the chain of department stores. "If you support the gay community, please shop JCPenney," he writes, later adding that, "Diversity, inclusion, acceptance for all—these are laudable values. The problem is, well, I have never actually met an openly gay person who openly shops at JCPenney."

Tags: Business

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