Chinni: Home's humming along

Carole Sloan, October 22, 2001

The bed and bath business at JCPenney in September was among the highest gainers in the company and ahead of the total store's gains of 8.7 percent.

The results, explained Charles Chinni, senior vp, gmm, home and fine jewelry, reflect the shift this year to a classification approach in the division vs. a lifestyle approach that had been used before. Emphasis now is being placed on sheets, bath, quilts, pads and pillows, for example, as classifications with fashion bedding remaining as a lifestyle presentation. "We see our assortments being presented in an easy, dominant way."

At the same time, Chinni told HTT, "we have better control of our inventory, we're marketing aggressively and we're getting our message across about assortments that are crisp and right and fashion right. We're putting all the pieces together — price, quality, presentation and marketing. We've always been price and quality."

Within the sheet classification, Chinni said, the Croscill solid-color step-up sheets that launched this fall are "doing good. They're a bit of a stretch and a reach, but they represent our commitment to luxury, better goods and fashion. They represent a balance between price/commodity/fashion."

In addition, the company has just added ready-made slipcovers from Sure-Fit, "and they're flying," he said.

In window coverings, where Penney owns close to a third of the market share, "we're seeing more competition now. Our competitors in window are picking niches," not going for the breadth that Penney offers. "It's our challenge that by being the biggest and most diversified, we have the responsibility to maintain the widest and best assortment and be in stock."

Although window business is flat for the year, Chinni said increases in July were in the double digits; August, the low single digits; and September, the high single digits.

Discussing the company's catalog, which has been suffering more than the stores, Chinni said the first major changes under the aegis of John Irvin, senior vp, would be seen in the spring/summer 2002 catalog. "It's being restructured to represent a more fashion-forward balance. The company had cheapened and held to the past in the catalog.

And as the marketplace moves more to imports, Penney also is doing a lot, "and we're looking at doing more," he said.

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