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Missing Ms. Martha

Plano, Texas - JCPenney ceo Ron Johnson today stood before the analyst community for the fourth time in eight months to explain the changes taking place at the company as it rolls out branded shop-in-shop concepts. For the first time, however, there was no mention of Martha Stewart or the 20,000-square-foot Stewart shop that was previously described as the anchor for a revitalized home department.

In fact, there was little talk about home at all during the webcast presentation and Q&A follow-up. Analysts were invited to JCP headquarters in Plano to tour a mock layout of a shop-in-shop prototype in progress, which so far has concentrated on apparel brands, computer bars and other amenities.

In discussing the need to attract a younger demographic to the store, Johnson told analysts JCP has the oldest home customer among its major competitors in the space, whom he listed as Target, Walmart, Macy's and Kohl's.

The home makeover had originally been scheduled for completion by March 1. Johnson did not address when the shop would debut, but he did say construction will begin in January.

The fate of the Martha shop has been snarled by lawsuits from Macy's, which has exclusives on Martha Stewart-branded bedding, bath, tabletop and cookware. Macy's has won a temporary injunction against Stewart-branded goods in those categories moving into JCP stores.

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