By  on August 11, 2010

J.C. Penney juices up the contemporary side of its fashion business next Wednesday by introducing MNG by Mango shops inside 77 of its department stores and online.

“This is the biggest rollout of a fast-fashion concept in the world,” said Liz Sweney, J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s executive vice president and senior general merchandise manager, during a preview of the MNG by Mango shop in Penney’s Manhattan store. By February, Penney’s intends to have Mango shops in 600 doors.

Mango isn’t Penney’s first stab at fast fashion. The company already sells I [Heart] Ronson, Bisou Bisou, Allen B. and City Streets. But Mango represents the first all-out effort. MNG by Mango is one of only three brands in the store with dedicated built-out shops, including Sephora and Call It Spring footwear. Call It Spring launches Sept. 23.

Also, the influx of goods will be speedier. Mango collections will arrive every two weeks, whereas other labels may ship as rapidly, but in limited quantities to supplement what’s already on the selling floor. The speed to market is made possible by Mango’s superior sourcing and design capabilities coupled with Penney’s advanced logistics and planning and allocation systems. At the outset, the Mango merchandise at Penney’s will be promoted at 20 percent off, as is customary when the retailer launches new lines.

Penney’s will keep close tabs on what Mango items drive sales and will tweak the buy accordingly. Initially at least, Penney’s will display a very wide selection of women’s categories and styles, from the more basic to the trendier, to test what sells and what doesn’t. “We don’t know yet how it’s going to play out by classification,” Sweney said, though she noted, “Mango helped us assort our shops.”

The collection for this season is men’s wear-inspired and includes twill military jackets feminized by being cropped and fitted; tuxedo jackets softened with peplum in the back, tulip sleeves and lace piping, and tailored suits styled with high-neck blouses with bows. About two thirds of the collection is casual; one third tailored or career-oriented. Sunglasses and fashion jewelry will be added in the spring. Even sooner, “some ‘wow’ pieces will be coming in,” Sweney added, citing sequined tanks and red print dresses. “More color is coming, too.”

“It’s like boy-meets-girl. It’s effortless,” said Lorraine Hitch, Penney’s general merchandise manager of footwear and handbags, in further describing the Mango look this season. “There are great layering pieces and it’s really versatile,” meaning there are items suitable for the office as well as nonwork settings.

Comparing the Barcelona-based Mango to other fast-fashion brands, Sweney said it’s priced higher than H&M and lower than Zara.Prices range from $9.90 to $19.90 for a T-shirt to $59.90 to $159.90 for jackets. “It’s not throwaway fashion. It’s high quality,” Sweney added.

Penney’s buys the products from the collection, which is also sold at the 1,500 Mango stores in 100 countries. In the U.S., however, there are only 12 Mango stores, giving Penney’s almost a U.S. exclusive. However, Mango is stepping up its global expansion with a goal of opening a shop a day.

For Penney’s, Mango represents another step in the ongoing strategy to elevate its style, cast a younger image and draw greater traffic with an exclusive. The MNG by Mango shops, which are being created in 1,200-, 1,000- and 800-square-foot spaces, are called MNG by Mango for trademark reasons in the U.S. market. Mango shops in the U.S. are also called MNG by Mango.

Asked if Penney’s has more exclusives in the works, Sweney responded, “We always talk to people. There’s nothing cooking at the moment.”

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