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J.C. Penney: In With the Old

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The JC Penney (JCP) saga continues, and the stock continues its descent further into the single digits.

Less than two years ago, at the pinnacle of the of the "love-fest" investors had with the notion that then-new CEO Ron Johnson was the answer, this was a $42 stock. Thirty four points later, representing a loss of more than 80%, the plot continues to thicken.

In August, Bill Ackman, who was at the center of the Ron Johnson movement, and had convinced many of my fellow value investing brethren that the company was a solid buy, finally gave up both his board seat, and his 18% stake. Those shares, sold by Citigroup to investors for $12.90, are down 40% in less than two months. Ouch. JCP ChartJCP data by YCharts

It's clear at this point that some believe that the company is in a death spiral, and that it will not be able to turn itself around. Others suggest that the 111 year old retailer should go private, allowing it to coalesce outside the constant scrutiny of the public markets. There's certainly no shortage of opinion, present company included, and the company is still able to grab headlines.

I believe the company's announcement yesterday gets to the crux of the issue. Returning (aka "old") CEO Mike Ullman has brought back the company's "old" logo; you know the "familiar" red logo which spells out "JCPenney". This will replace the newer version, which featured the initials "jcp" in the top right corner of a red, white and blue box. The company made the move after determining that company customers like the "old" logo better than the newer version. The "old" logo is already being used in television commercials, and will now make a comeback on the JC Penney credit card.

Come to think about it, I prefer the "old" logo, too; it is more familiar, and evokes "old" childhood memories of mall shopping. But that sure as heck won't get me back into the mall, or the local JC Penney store. The company tried "new", to a certain extent, with the multitude of changes made by the Ron Johnson regime, but it was still JC Penney, the store where your grandparents used to shop. Those changes didn't work, so the company is reverting back to the "old". But that's not the answer, either. If JC Penney wants to survive, the company may need to completely re-invent itself, and in my view, that includes a name and identity change, not the return to an old logo.

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