Penney Aims High with American Living

Allison Outlines Merchandising Program

Powell Slaughter, Carole Sloan, February 10, 2008

American Living, the major softlines lifestyle launch taking place at JCPenney this month, will be 100% synergistic in home between the company's store, catalog and online channels, Jeff Allison, evp for home told HTT.

And for some 500 of the company's local store markets, JCP catalog and online channels will be the only way consumers will be able to shop the home furnishings line, which at launch will include bed, bath, soft window coverings and luggage.

The home segment is merchandised both as lifestyle statements as well as power presentations by product classification, said Allison. The five featured bedding ensembles are presented together with quilts, decorative pillows, sheets and blankets.

While JCP is the dominant window coverings retailer, however, "Our strength there is classification merchandising. We do more business in classification vs. coordination in window," he said. As a result, beds have coordinate valances, but the window coverings are complementary rather than matching or highly coordinated, he explained.

American Living, the giant across-the-store brand created by Polo Ralph Lauren's Global Brand Concepts unit, "represents traditional, classic, best-on-floor quality with a real feel of Americana," Allison related. "It is highly differentiated from anything on the floor. And in home furnishings it is a position we haven't reached." The retailer's current Chris Madden Hotel collection is a small piece of best, he noted. With price points that are some 10% to 30% higher on average than Penney product, American Living will stretch the pricing structure.

And American Living will mark one of the first examples of the new synergy among the three retail channels in terms of pricing. "It will be basically the same with the exception of event timing," Allison said.

The company will market American Living "as a fresh, innovative brand. We're going to promote it but not as deep and aggressively as we do traffic-builders," Allison explained. And while the brand carries no visible identification with Polo Ralph Lauren, Allison said, "It will be like their Rugby line which also has no [corporate] identification. There's a great connection with the product to the JCPenney customer. It's so obvious [as to its heritage]."

In sheets, the company is offering eight solid colors each in two Supima cotton constructions — a 450 count and 700 count. There also are two prints and a stripe that can are featured with the solids on the three fully dressed beds. Each can be bought from the classification presentation or at the three-bed pad. The sheets sets at retail are $110 to $220 for the full to king.

The three feature beds will be rotated among the five in the launch assortment and there are decorative pillows, quilts, blankets and throws to work with them.

Comforter sets are $300 to $500; quilt/coverlets $150 to $190 for the full to king. The American Living towel program "is about 20 pounds and is the largest in the line," he said. Offered in 16 colors, the Supima cotton towel is $11.99. The two bath rugs are a Supima cotton blend in eight colors and a nylon construction in 16 colors with retails from $20 to $60. Window coverings range from $100 to $400.

Looking ahead, fall will see the addition of tabletop, as well as the next generation of the launch of home categories that will also include an expansion of blankets, throws and decorative pillows. Furniture, lamps and lighting and area rugs will be added in spring 2009.

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