PLANO, Tex. — Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd has his ear to the ground at J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
Noting at the company’s annual meeting here on Friday that he has spent a lot of time “listening” since returning to lead the struggling chain five weeks ago, Ullman cited his immediate goals as reconnecting with the customer via promotional marketing, rebuilding private brands, “fixing” the Internet business with merchandise that matches and extends what’s in the stores, and focusing on customer service.
“The retail success formula is quite simple: It’s visits and spend,” Ullman said. “We’ve suffered over the last year or so in terms of visits, partly because of the messaging, and partly because when they came they didn’t find merchandise they could relate to or the size and style to satisfy their needs.”
He expects Penney’s e-commerce site will start posting sales gains this year after losing a “significant” portion of revenue last year.
“Our store associates depend on the Internet to extend the sizes and styles, to sell something they don’t have in the store, so we are in the process of putting that back together,” he said.
Home departments debuting June 6 in 500 stores will be “the best looking” in the industry, Ullman asserted, noting the chain’s remaining 600 units will offer the same goods with a different presentation. The home stores include shops for tabletop items by Michael Graves and Jonathan Adler and paper goods by Martha Stewart.
About six weeks before Ullman’s return, the company hired a market research firm experienced with political campaigns to gauge its traction with the public, he noted. A series of three television ads — including an apology that was a hit on social media — combined with discount offers helped sales beat expectations over Mother’s Day weekend, he said.
Executives were also asked about the company’s efforts to monitor its supply chain given the recent spate of safety issues at factories.
Penney’s didn’t produce any goods in the Bangladesh factory that collapsed last month and has a policy against “multiuse” buildings that house other businesses, noted Ken Mangone, who returned to the company two weeks ago as executive vice president of product development, design and sourcing.
“Going forward, we will require structural and electrical engineering inspections in countries that have that kind of risk,” Mangone said.
Penney’s had previously added more regional compliance directors based in Bangladesh following a tragic fire in December 2010, Mangone noted.
“We participated in training for fire safety and exit, which was a problem in the 2010 fire,” he said.
About 200 people attended the meeting, all filing past an exhibit of the company’s heritage fronted by illustrations of all past chief executive officers, except Ron Johnson, who was forced out in April following his 17-month tenure of plummeting sales and profits.
The company’s entire board, which hired Johnson to remake the firm and then brought back Ullman, was reelected at the meeting.
At the onset, chairman Thomas Engibous introduced the company’s board and asked shareholders to hold their applause until the end, a request that sparked chuckles from the crowd.
The elephant in the room — the company’s nearly $1 billion loss last year on a 25 percent drop in sales — wasn’t acknowledged at the meeting, by executives or shareholders, who seemed happy to have Ullman back at the helm.
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty