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JCP Launches Lifestyle with Linden Street

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, June 9, 2008

Lifestyle merchandising will be a major new approach for the home furnishings division at JCPenney, and the company's new Linden Street brand will be the launch vehicle.

The collection that debuts in July will be featured in cross-merchandising presentations in each of the home departments, Jeff Allison, executive vp, home told HTT. The company is referring to these presentations as "lifestyle zones," which Allison calls "the chocolate syrup with the cherry on the top" in terms of the impact.

The company tested lifestyle merchandising with its Chris Madden and Simply Green brands and, as an example, brought together a Chris Madden bedding ensemble in the home textiles department set on a Chris Madden bed, adjacent to the brand's nightstand, lamp and accessories.

In furniture, as an example, a Chris Madden living room could be accessorized with the brand's lamps and accessories, accented with decorative pillows and throws, and coordinated with the brand's window coverings.

"There could be 15 or more product classifications featured in a single bedding vignette for Linden Street," Allison said. And within home textiles, as an example, "There are 15 beds in a typical store; now four or five could be lifestyle," he noted.

"We will have a powerful presence in this new brand. It fills a void in neo-traditional — we created a new style segment," Allison remarked.

Penney breaks out its product segmentation across the board into conservative, traditional, neo-traditional and modern. And while both American Living and Chris Madden fill the traditional slot, there has been a void in this segment, he explained.

In the stores, there will be "20 or so lifestyle zones" for Linden Street, as well as feature areas the company refers to as "hot zones, hot spots, corners on aisles and seasonal pads." One-half or more of these in July will be dedicated to Linden Street in the home furnishings departments.

The move to lifestyle merchandising, Allison pointed out, "is because the brands now have design integrity across all departments. A year ago, we couldn't put it together. Now we're building seasonal assortments across the board that are styled out together. We're using the several years of experience in lifestyle merchandising from ready to wear."

But while lifestyle merchandising will be in the spotlight as it makes its home furnishings debut, Allison is just as strongly committed to classification merchandising: "And we want to be strong in commodity products as well as brands. He noted that the JCPenney Home Collection represents $2 billion, "but as a label, not a brand. That positioning changed last year."

While the physical placement of product across departmental lines is relatively easy, the selling of these multiple product segments in one department presents challenges. "We will try different incentive plans for our sales people," he said.

He pointed to the Sephora beauty shops now expanding in Penney stores that use "a team concept" or different commissions. All of this, he emphasized, "is part of engaging the customer in new ways."

Linden Street will be a major player in the company's direct-to-consumer business — the internet and catalog. "The merger of the direct business buying and marketing with retail is going real well," Allison said. "We've set a number of milestones already; in virtually every case we're getting to the milestones sooner than expected."

With the merger of these businesses, "There's a lot of traction regarding how to reach the customer, assortment alignment, how to play by channel, and what product goes where. It's now just one conversation."

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