J.C. Penney Names Laurie Beja Miller

Executive vice president to oversee The Square.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. advanced its reinvention strategy on Friday by naming Laurie Beja Miller executive vice president of The Square, its upcoming new format for the center core.

This story first appeared in the March 6, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Since the fall, Penney’s has installed new top management, overhauled its pricing, pared much of the inventory, and introduced a new logo and advertising with Ellen Degeneres. The store is also planning to phase in over the next three-and-a-half years 100 shops-in-shop in a sweeping revamp of the selling floor that also involves creating The Square as a major component. Penney’s has said little about The Square other than it will be a gathering place with ongoing attractions and services, possibly product demonstrations and other special events.

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Miller, 54, has spent 20 years at top retailers and brands, working in merchandising, marketing and product strategy. Penney’s said she focused on delivering “unique in-store and multichannel shopping experiences.”

Most recently, Miller was senior vice president and general manager, Americas at Bare Escentuals, which she joined in 2010. Earlier, she spent three years as general manager and vice president of Nike Retail U.S. Before that, she was vice president, product development and merchandising at Hallmark Cards; vice president, special projects at Apple Inc.; senior vice president and gmm at Pottery Barn, and executive vice president at Disney Stores for product development. She also spent more than a decade at Spiegel, where she was general manager of electronic media, and began her career at department stores including Milwaukee Boston Co. and Marshall Field’s.

“In the golden age of department stores, America’s families came for more than just to shop,” said Ron Johnson, Penney’s chief executive officer. “They were able to have fun experiences and were offered a range of useful services. We are going to revive that excitement and convenience at J.C. Penney, and Laurie is the ideal person to lead the charge. She brings an exceptional track record of creating differentiated shopping environments, unique insight into customer behavior and a passion about retail that will all be invaluable as we execute our concept for J.C. Penney stores.”

Miller will join Penney’s on April 1 and report to Johnson. Her appointment is consistent with Johnson’s drive to recruit talent from outside the company to rebuild the management, including tapping Michael Kramer, former Kellwood Co. ceo, as chief operating officer, and former Target Corp. executive Michael Francis as president.

Last week, however, in a shake-up of the buying team, Elizabeth Sweney, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel, juniors and Sephora, was promoted to chief merchant. Sweney has been instrumental in launching private and exclusive brands such as Liz Claiborne, MNG by Mango, Call It Spring, a.n.a., City Streets, Decree and I [Heart] Ronson. Steve Lawrence, executive vice president and gmm of men’s, left the company, as did Clarence Kelley, executive vice president of planning and allocation.