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Penney’s Links With People StyleWatch

Penney’s stores and on jcpenney.com will be flagged with “People StyleWatch Must Have” displays.

J.C. Penney has a new fashion director for its shoppers — People StyleWatch.

This story first appeared in the April 19, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Beginning in September in Penney’s stores and on jcpenney.com, select items in misses’, contemporary and junior apparel, accessories and shoes will be flagged with “People StyleWatch Must Have” displays, effectively putting the magazine’s seal of approval on what it considers the trendiest, most desirable items developed by the retailer and its stable of designers, including Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Charlotte Ronson, who have created the Olsenboye and I [Heart] Ronson collections, respectively, for the department store chain. Penney’s will launch exclusively Liz Claiborne and fast-fashion brand MNG by Mango this fall.

“We’ve been partners with J.C. Penney for a long time. They are incredibly innovative,” said Paul Caine, president and group publisher of Time Inc. Style & Entertainment Group. “I’m impressed with the product line, in-store presentations, particularly Sephora [which has beauty shops inside hundreds of Penney’s stores], and the way they have been approaching new designers and incorporating them. We are looking forward to a very long partnership.”

As part of the partnership, beginning in February, Penney’s will start selling special subscription offers to Time Inc. publications, including People, People StyleWatch and InStyle. The offers will be available at checkouts, though no magazines will be sold in the stores, Penney’s explained. A portion of the subscription proceeds will benefit after-school programs supported by Penney’s. People StyleWatch last year had a total circulation of 802,275.

While Time Inc. has collaborated with other fashion retailers in the past, “we have never done anything of this scale before,” Caine said. “This is the largest subscription program ever done. That’s what makes this unique.”

Penney’s chairman and chief executive officer Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd said stores will be outfitted with “special visual presentations” in at least 10 separate departments to enable customers to “clearly identify” the products endorsed by People StyleWatch. They also will be spotlighted online and in Penney’s print and digital media.

He said People StyleWatch would not have agreed to the partnership unless its fashion editors found items at Penney’s on which they were keen. “It wasn’t a surprise to us they found those things in our assortment. It may have been a surprise to them,” Ullman noted, adding People StyleWatch is “one of the few growing magazines in the women’s space.”

“Aligning with one of today’s leading fashion magazines lends great credibility to our style authority and encourages customers to discover the new, higher level of fashion in our merchandise assortments,” added Liz Sweney, Penney’s executive vice president and senior general merchandise manager of women’s apparel, accessories, handbags, shoes and fine jewelry.

People StyleWatch editors will work with Penney’s trend and merchandising team to select items, get them branded “People StyleWatch Must Haves,” roll them out to all Penney’s stores and refresh them up to 10 times a year.