By  on November 4, 2010

J.C. Penney, injecting some trendiness to its shoe and handbag assortment, opened its first two Call It Spring shop-in-shops last month at its Herald Square flagship.

Penney’s below-ground location isn’t the easiest store to navigate. Yet the Call It Spring shops stand out. They’re situated in high-visibility spots off major aisles and fitted with brightly lit blue and white fixtures, round red hassocks and large visuals. The shops feel compact and have a clean design.

“They are optimistic and convey a feeling of enjoying life. Customers want to get what they see in fashion magazines at affordable prices,” said Emmanuel Amzallag, a divisional merchandise manager and account director at Call It Spring. The actual rollout, in collaboration with the Aldo USA Inc. shoe company which owns the emerging Call It Spring brand, starts in March, with shop-in-shops selling a total of more than 300 styles of footwear and handbags at 100 Penney’s stores and on Next fall, an additional 500 Penney’s stores will have Call It Spring shop-in-shops. The brand is exclusive to J.C. Penney, except for the two dozen or so Call It Spring freestanding shops currently operating in the U.S.

However, at Herald Square, “We fast-tracked these shops,” said Lorraine Hitch, Penney’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager. The opportunity arose as Penney’s started to tweak the layout of the store to bolster better-selling categories such as footwear and women’s fashions. There are separate women’s and men’s Call It Spring shops, at 600 square feet and 400 square feet, respectively, and a window display.

The shops spotlight three trends: “grunge revival” emphasizing military styles including combat boots priced $69 and canvas boots for $49; “urban nostalgia” for a preppie and vintage-inspired looks such as over-the-knee riding boots, priced $89.99, and shearling booties priced $69, and “dark romance” for dressier and softer styles inspired by the “Twilight” movies including closed-toe pumps with “wearable” two-and-a-half to three-inch heels, priced $39 to $49, Amzallag said.

According to Hitch, Call It Spring is geared for everyday low prices and not a brand that will be promoted with markdowns. Prices range from $19 to $69 in shoes, $59 to $89 for boots and about $25 to $40 for handbags.

It’s hoped that Call It Spring lifts store productivity and draws younger crowds like other exclusive shops at Penney’s such as Sephora, I “Heart” Ronson, Allen B., Olsenboye and MNG by Mango. Call It Spring skews a bit younger and trendier than the Aldo label. Other key shoe brands at Penney’s include Nike, Skechers and Clarks.

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