JCP in transition: The angle for home

Retail Editor 3, January 26, 2012

New York - As JCPenney ceo Ron Johnson described the conditions that ail modern department stores during his "fresh air" presentation yesterday, one of the culprits he pointed to was an excessive reliance on private label goods - a curious statement considering the JCPenney brand has been a stalwart in its home department for decades.

Was he signaling an end to house brands? No at all, according to John Tighe, senior vp/gmm for home.

Johnson wants all brands - house and national - "to be meaningful," Tighe told HTT following the presentation. "There's no plan to put a cap on. He doesn't want private brands to be ‘this big' or ‘this small.'"

Tighe points to Royal Velvet, which begins rolling out in late spring as a JCPenney exclusive in bed and bath. "We're gong to use it to target traditional in a beautiful way."

The window department - long a business in which Penney has dominated - is scheduled to begin evolving sooner rather than later, with the first changes emerging in May.

"We have lots of ideas about how to make window better, how to make it more inviting, how to open up the floor," said Tighe.

The company's new pricing strategy is designed not only to reduce confusion for consumers, Johnson said during his presentation yesterday, it also frees up merchants to focus on merchandise. The soon-to-be-ditched, highly promotional pricing strategy consumed 50% of merchants' time, he added.

In the past 90 days, merchants have been sent around the world to scout new ideas for product and merchandising. Said Tighe: "It's a great time to be a merchant at JCPenney. It's all about product."

During this morning's financial presentation to analysts, Johnson reaffirmed that he has no hard targets in mind for the balance of private label versus national brands, preferring to let consumers vote with their dollars.

However, over time, he expects JCP will slightly reduce private brands across the store in favor of "more global" brands.

Part of the new shop-in-shop strategy will involve editing assortments and simultaneously opening more space on the floor. Vendors are being invited both to bring forward their ideas for filling the void and to "compete for the space," said Johnson.


Ron Johnson at JCPenneyRon Johnson at JCPenney's launch event in New York

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