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JCP Arrives in Manhattan

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, August 10, 2009

With the opening of its store in Manhattan, JCPenney is striving to prove that bigger is not necessarily better.

The 153,000 square foot store at Manhattan Mall here on Sixth Avenue and 33 Street is smaller than many Penney units of recent vintage, but it is "a state of the art store" as Mike Ullman, Penney chairman and ceo, said at the opening presentation.

New fixtures designed to compensate for the smaller dimensions such as the waterfall display holding basic comforters — typically a 100 square foot pad — and a special emphasis on window treatments — one of the retailer's strong suits — were cited by Jeff Allison, executive vp, home and custom decorating, as among the innovations created for the store here.

In fact, the entire window business — from ready-mades to made to measure to the major custom decorating assortments — are given major focus in the home textiles department as well as through exposure on the company's test program, Find More, an touch screen program that guides customers through the full assortment in each department, said Allison. The Find More installation here joins four in a test mode in the Dallas market. "The entire home assortment is available on Find More," Allison added.

One of the reasons Penney is putting such emphasis on windows in this stores "is that you can't find all these elements in other retailers in Manhattan. And it's been one of the strongest areas during the soft opening" — a time frame about 10 days prior to the formal launch on July 31.

The store here also is the debut showcase for the Cindy Crawford Style home collection that will launch in Penney stores across the country in about six weeks. The collection is heavily into bedding, bath, and window as well as rugs and other areas. There will be furniture collection, but unbranded as Cindy Crawford in view of the existing Crawford license held by Rooms to Go.

"The furniture is is basically the same as JCPenney Home Collection styles with a higher taste level and comparable pricing," Allison explained. "It won't be advertised as Cindy Crawford."

As for the collection overall, Allison sees it as "a modern updated traditional look, primarily in the better price points. It could well be the single largest brand in home." The appeal of Crawford, Allison explained, is that "she's approachable, people trust her and she's become a role model as well as having style expertise."

The company is planning a Cindy Crawford event in New York on Sept. 9 that will bring the merchants in the week before the New York Home Fashions Market, he said. Market week conflicts with a corporate managers meeting in Plano, Texas.

Other important programs for home textiles and across the home department is Chris Madden with "two great beds" and a major role in sales on the company's e-commerce site.

"We see a lot of growth potential in Chris at the best price points, and it's doing very well in bedding and window online — primarily at the best price points."

As for its other home brands, Allison considers JCPenney Home as the opening price point collection "and a good business," Linden Street is positioned as "a more casual collection in the 'good' range."

The company has made a major effort to increase its market share in bed and bath, Allison commented. "We're getting our brands more honed and repriced. With the same styling and quality we now are offering beds from $159 to $179 compared with our former pricing in the mid $200s."

Also new for Penney will be the launch in early 2010 of product-specific catalogs for bedding, housewares and furniture, similar to the highly successful Window Authority-Window Solutions catalog issued semi-annually. The window book is No.1 online and in the catalog business, he noted.

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