JCPenney's Catalog Kill More Anticlimactic Than Anything Else

There's a bittersweet aspect to JCPenney formally and officially wiping its catalog off the planet, as it did Monday (Jan. 24). Yes, it's long overdue and others—including Bloomingdale's—have already taken the anti-paper plunge. But the JCPenney catalog has been such a powerful part of retail Americana for so long that it's hard to dismiss it as simply another retail channel that has completed its usefulness—even though that's exactly what it is.

CEO Mike Ullman dusted off one of those all-purpose corporate explanations that could be used to justify almost any move: "The actions we are announcing today are significant steps in an ongoing process to ensure we are best managing costs and allocating our resources effectively to the strategies that will allow us to improve margins and drive profitable sales over the long term." It would have been a lot more comforting had the statement instead said that the monies saved from the catalog and catalog stores would be reinvested into state-of-the-art mobile payment and item-level RFID projects. This statement seems instead to be just a cutback. Please stop me if I try saying Penney-wise and pound-foolish.