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JC Penney Polls Customers on Changes

Morning Business Memo..

JC Penney is going from apology to offensive. The struggling retailer is launching a major PR campaign on Twitter and other social network sites called #jcplistens. After hearing from customers on its Facebook page Penney announced it was bringing back the St. John's Bay women's line that was discontinued by the previous CEO Ron Johnson. His short and tumultuous tenure resulted in a sharp drop in sales. According to AdAge, at the time St. John's Bay "was shuttered in favor of younger brands like Betseyville and Joe Fresh, the house brand brought in more than a billion dollars in sales annually." Consumers posted thousands of comments on Penney's Facebook site. There's a heated debate in the retail industry over the wisdom of the retailer's latest "about-turn" strategy.

Taco Bell says its new value menu may soon go national.The cheap eats include a "$1 Cravings" menu, which was test marketed in Kansas City and Sacramento. Taco Bell and other fast food chains have been experimenting recently with low-end items and bigger menus, including more healthy food selections. McDonald's is touting its Dollar Menu, and Burger King is highlighting more deals. Notes USA Today: "The big restaurant chains don't do value deals because they want to, but because they have to. Restaurant customer traffic continues to fall at many chains. Nationally, customer visits fell in March for the fourth-consecutive month, reports the National Restaurant Association."

This morning's April employment report from the Labor Department is the mostly closely watched monthly economic survey on Wall Street. Another big disappointment on new jobs created could increase concern that the economy is getting weaker. Only 88,000 new jobs were added by employers in March, far fewer than expected. The share of the US population either working or looking for a job sunk to the lowest level since 1979. Economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics tells ABC News Radio he's expecting a fairly weak report. "I think the key reason for the slowdown is the fiscal headwinds. That's the tax increases, the expiration of the payroll tax holiday for example and the spending cuts, the government spending cuts, the sequester."

Barnes & Noble is making a new push to boost sales for the Nook. The book retailer is teaming up with Google to increase the number of apps available on its Nook HD tablets from about 10,000 already offered to more than 700,000. Barnes & Noble says it will add Google's Play app store to its Nook HD and HD+ products via a software update today. The move comes after a weak holiday sales season for the Nook, which is struggling to gain market share. Barnes & Noble invested heavily in its Nook e-book readers and a digital library as more readers shift to electronic books.

Delta and American Airlines are matching United's fee increase. Passengers who change a domestic flight reservation will have to pay $200 - up from 150. Southwest Airlines does not charge a change fee, but it recently announced a new tighter policy on no-shows.

This Sunday May 5th is National Lemonade Day. The event gives children their first step in running a business. "It teaches youth how to start own and operate their very own lemonade stand," says Michael Holthouse, founder of National Lemonade day. "All of us have aptitude at business but only some of us get exposed to it early in our lives." Holthouse says teaching kids about money and business "can quite literally change the trajectory of their life."

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesabc

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