By  on April 25, 2007

Exclusivity is paramount in fashion and retailers such as J.C. Penney, Gap and Chico’s are making strides to differentiate themselves from the pack.

Looking to become “the preferred shopping choice for Middle America,” J.C. Penney is inspiring their shoppers with trend-right merchandise at a smart price and providing personalized customer service. The company hired 153 full-time apparel designers and is recruiting committed sales associates.

Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chairman and chief executive officer, said the department store has already exceeded their 2007 sales goal, rising 6 percent to $19.9 billion, and is seeing success with jcp.com, launch of Sephora shop-in-shops, and the American Living collaboration with Ralph Lauren’s new exclusive brands.

To get customers back in the stores, Gap is promoting a new limited edition designer line.

For Design Edition, designers Doo-Ri Chung, Thakoon Panichgul and Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy, gave their own spin to Gap’s iconic crisp white shirts.

While the launch was not met with the frenzy of previous designer limited edition lines by H&M or Target, company executives were still pleased with customer reaction.

The specialty retailer said several of the stores were mob scenes on the day of the launch, with women taking the shirts right off the mannequins.

The collection is being sold in 100 stores across the country and is available in the majority of Gap’s Manhattan locations. The project is an offshoot of Gap’s partnership with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.

After recording a 5.2 percent rise in March same-store sales, Chico’s wants to keep the momentum rolling by growing direct sales, expanding square footage more than 20 percent and focusing on new, less repetitive product offerings in 2007.

In order to expand their reach on the baby boomer market, they will be adding petite sizes to 60 of their new White House/Black Market stores in June, and to Chico’s stores in 2008.

Charles J. Kleman, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the company plans to increase square footage with the addition of 130 to 145 new stores and select expansion of existing stores.

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