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Best Buy or J.C. Penney?

Updated: May 20, 2020

​By: Steve Mamanella

When it comes to evangelizing during the coronavirus pandemic, is the Church more like Best Buy or J.C. Penney?

​Parishes are not retailers, of course. And we’re promoting something so much more than a product – we’re sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. But how are we sharing the Good News during these challenging days?

​The venerable J.C. Penney, which for years has been unable to adapt to evolving market forces, filed for bankruptcy in May and then announced its intention to close 30 percent of its locations. Its sales falling even before the pandemic, media reports charitably noted the chain was “having trouble connecting with consumers.”

​Electronics retailer Best Buy, on the other hand, has done comparatively well, with an analyst telling Barron’s the company may “come out of this pandemic as a winner in retail, helped by its consistent market share gains, stable profitability, leading omnichannel capabilities, solid cash flow generation, healthy balance sheet, and strong management team.”

Why is Best Buy succeeding and J.C. Penney failing during these difficult days? The analyst says it’s because of Best Buy’s “solid execution in stores and online, relevant and innovative products, and customer-centric offerings.” J.C. Penney, it appears, has been a laggard in every one of these areas.

​What can the Church learn from this?

​Over the past few months, the vast majority of Catholic parishes have evolved out of necessity, seeking to meet the needs of their parishioners. Online Masses have become the standard, but some parishes have gone above-and-beyond with other types of “omnichannel” evangelization efforts – including personal video messages from pastors, online prayer groups and Bible studies, check-in telephone calls to all parishioner households, and more. Within our Catholic experience, these innovative examples demonstrate our own “solid execution,” “strong management teams” and “customer-centric options” at the parish level.

​Pope Francis wasn’t comparing the Church to retailers like J.C. Penney and Best Buy when he commented recently on the importance of evangelizing creatively, but he could have: “The Church is either on the move or she is not (the) Church. Either she evangelizes or she is not (the) Church. If the Church is not on the move, she decays, she becomes something else.”

​As we eventually move into a post-pandemic world, how will our parishes continue to leverage omnichannel marketing capabilities to evangelize and share the Good News, over-and-above simply streaming online Masses?

​KP Consulting Group can help parishes work through the inherent challenges. Contact us to begin a conversation.

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