Private Label Buyer
Following The Buzz

JCP, Fresh or Flailing?

May 10, 2013

Reuters reported in March that JCPenney was bringing back high-low pricing for its private label products after the failed experiment with everyday low pricing under JCP CEO Ron Johnson (ousted in April after just 16 months when JCP rehired Johnson’s predecessor Mike Ullman).

“While our prices continue to represent a tremendous value every day, we now understand that customers are motivated by promotions and prefer to receive discounts through sales and coupons applied at the register,” JCPenney spokeswoman Daphne Avila told Reuters.

Private label sales total close to $6.5 billion, more than half of JCP’s revenue, according to the report.

JCP has been trying to implement its boutique store-within-in-a-store plan, which may bring it into the modern era of retailers such as Target. Of course, in March Target said it was done experimenting for now with its “Shops at Target” concept.

I took a trip to a NJ-based JCP to see what’s going on in one store, driven there by their recent addition of Canadian retailer Loblaw’s Joe Fresh line.

Upon approaching the store, Joe Fresh advertisements were found clearly on the doors. After entering I found the Joe Fresh Store to the left, set apart with white floors and bright orange Joe Fresh displays. Prices were low as expected, including $29 jeans, $4 flip flops, $10 tops, and $16 cardigans.

In addition to many partnership lines, I found JCP brand clothing, which included items such as $12 striped dolman tops and jean jackets all in trendy bright colors.

Upstairs, the home section was much more chaotic.

JCP is installing home-furnishings boutiques, called The Street, in almost half of its 1,100 stores,The New York Timesreported in March.  These shops will offer collections by well-known designers, including The Michael Graves collection, which ended its longtime partnership with Target last year, and Jonathan Adler’s Happy Chic collection.

The New York Times reported that MarthaCelebrations, Martha Stewart’s party line with candles and balloons and MarthaPantry, which will sell her first packaged foods, will go on as they are not involved in Macy’s lawsuit with JCP over licensing rights to Stewart’s name.

Of course, in the store I visited, there was nothing but construction and sheets of plastic where Adler’s wares will appear at some point “this spring” according to signage. When I tried to buy some Joe Fresh items there was no one to be found at the counters. (There have been reports that JCP will say farewell to cash registers and checkout counters by 2014, replacing them with technology solutions).

JCP continues to implement changes, but the question remains, will they be fast enough and will anything stick? Are these edited collections enough to get shoppers into department stores?

 For this editor, it’s the everyday items that get me into a Target. My beauty and apparel purchases there are just impulse buys that happen as I’m purchasing cat food.