It’s early April in Minnesota. If we have a cool-and-rainy season in Minnesota, it’s April. It’s technically spring, but there’s still snow on the ground, and it still freezes every night. It’s too warm to wear our winter coats, but we still need coats. Spring coats, you know? A coat to wear in the spring. Something we can wear to work in the morning, and that, if we’re lucky, we can toss in the backseat of the car on our way home that day.
Last weekend I was at the Burnsville Center mall in Burnsville, MN. I need a spring coat, so I went to JCPenney to look around. I thought I must be in the wrong section of the store, because I couldn’t find the the spring coats. I couldn’t even find the winter coats on clearance. Did I walk right past them? Was I on the wrong floor?
I asked a sales clerk where I could find women’s coats, and she looked at me blankly for a second. Then she said, “I think we might have a few winter coats left over by . . . ” and she pointed to some area of the store. I said, “how about spring coats?” and she said, “no, we don’t have any of those in right now.”
I thanked her (?) and thought, she’s nuts, this is Penney’s, of course they have spring coats. I walked over to the area she’d pointed at, and there were a couple of ugly XXXL winter coats on a rack along with some other completely unrelated items. They looked like they’d been tried on by about a thousand customers, one was lying crumpled on the floor, and another was missing two buttons. No spring coats or raincoats in sight.
I huffed my way out of JCPenney. I walked to Macy’s. Macy’s seemed to know the date and the geographical location of its store. They offered several large, well-organized racks of spring coats (in normal sizes) and some of them were even on sale. I tried some on, didn’t find one I liked enough to buy, but left knowing that at least Macy’s provided options.
Fast forward a few days to the Crossroad Center mall in St. Cloud, MN. I was in town for business and I had an evening to myself—at the mall! It was still early spring and I still needed a new coat. I drove to the mall and parked in front of Penney’s; yes, I was giving them another shot.
Instead of wasting my time wandering around, I asked a JCPenney clerk right away, where were the women’s coats. Her eyes wandered around the store and she slowly answered, “um . .. . hmmm. Well, we have a couple of spring jackets that are sort of like activewear.” She walked me to a little spot where there were workout clothes like sweatpants and t-shirts for wearing outside or to a gym. A couple of sets were accompanied by a colorful, unlined, lightweight piece of vinyl with a zipper, sort of like something Richard Simmons would wear to an interview with Regis and Kathie Lee.
I need a conservative, professional-looking coat that I can wear to customer meetings for my job. I asked the clerk if she had anything else. She shrugged and responded, “no, it’s not really the season, I guess.”
Unclear about this, I asked, “is it too early, or too late, for spring coats?”
And she replied, as if trying to make sense of it herself, “Well, it’s certainly not too late. So I guess it’s a little too early.”
NEVER MIND. Guess what I did?
I walked to Macy’s. Where they had plenty of nicely displayed spring coats and rainjackets. Some had hoods. Some had buttons. Some were zippered. Some had cute ruffles. There were pink ones and orange ones, navy blue and black. A cute tan one looked like it was tailor-made for McGruff the Crime Dog. Coats were available in all sizes. There were several mirrors right there, very important. A check-out counter stood nearby and two women bought coats in the few moments that I browsed.
I drove back to my hotel coatless, but knowing that when I find something I like, it might be in Macy’s and it most certainly won’t be in JCPenney.
What happened to JCPenney?