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Vendors Back Firm, Ullman in J.C. Penney Turnaround Effort

Unsettled as the retailer seems to be, several vendors indicated that its ceo has the expertise to turn the business around.

Unsettled as J.C. Penney Co. Inc. seems to be, several vendors indicated Tuesday that chief executive officer Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd has the expertise to turn the business around.

This story first appeared in the August 21, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Nicole Miller president and ceo Bud Konheim noted that the most recent financial results don’t reflect what is going on now under Ullman’s leadership. With 17 licenses sold through the retailer, Nicole Miller has not seen any changes in payments or credit issues, he said.

“They’re hunkered down doing back-to-school business. Morale is good. We’re shipping them everything. They pay right on time — same as they always have,” Konheim said. “Right now they are squeaky clean on time because they couldn’t afford one late payment. If one stamp fell off an envelope, it would be in the headlines.”

Nicole Miller is already booking orders with the chain through May 2014, said Konheim, adding, “Obviously, it looks good with George Soros and other guys investing in Penney’s right now.”

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Nanette Lepore cofounder Bob Savage said he has not noticed any fundamental changes or anything negative in recent weeks. Ullman even stopped by the company’s New York showroom late last month and offered a vote of confidence about the L’amour Nanette Lepore label, which was introduced during the troubled tenure of former Penney’s ceo Ron Johnson. Savage added, “The J.C. Penney’s board seems to be backing Mike Ullman 100 percent, which I do also. It is a great Titanic of a ship to turn around, but there is no better person for the job to do it. He is the man-of-the-hour. I think it’s going to happen. His integrity is beyond anyone else’s.”

Savage, who is married to Lepore, said the designer has been impressed by Penney’s Lafayette Street offices.

Marc Bohbot, founder and ceo of Bisou Bisou, said, “We have a licensing agreement with J.C. Penney. We use vendors to ship our merchandise. We’ve noticed that the pool of vendors we’re using are very confident and are shipping good product, on time. As much as is going on in the market,” it hasn’t affected sales of Bisou Bisou, Bohbot said. “We feel great growth of Bisou Bisou at J.C. Penney. Lately, for the last two months, we’ve seen phenomenal improvement. We’re working well with the team at Penney’s and we’re seeing good results.”