J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has named Marc Rosen, a former Levi Strauss and Walmart executive, as chief executive officer, effective Nov. 1.
Penney’s also named Stanley Shashoua, chief investment officer of the Simon Property Group who has been serving as Penney’s interim CEO since January, executive chairman of the board of directors.
The Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney Co. Inc. came close to liquidation but was lifted out of bankruptcy in December 2020 by the Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, which acquired Penney’s retail and operating assets.
Simon and Brookfield needed Penney’s stores to continue to operate to keep other leaseholders in the malls and help get potential tenants to sign leases. Penney’s first-lien secured lenders, many of whom also supplied its debtor-in-possession financing, took over the property business that includes 160 real estate locations and six distribution centers. A vast amount of debt was erased from Penney’s books through the transfer of ownership.
Shortly after Simon and Brookfield took over Penney’s, the retailer’s CEO at the time, Jill Soltau, was replaced by Shashoua.
“Marc joins J.C. Penney following a year of focused work to stabilize the business, improve financials and position the retailer for long-term success,” Shashoua said. “Working with the phenomenal and dedicated J.C. Penney team as CEO has been immensely rewarding, and I look forward to my next step as executive chairman. Marc’s significant e-commerce and retail experience makes him the perfect fit to lead the next chapter of the company’s transformation as we work to better serve our customers.”
Rosen, a 25-year veteran of brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, most recently served as executive vice president and president of Levi Strauss Americas, leading commercial operations for Levi’s, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. and Denizen brands across all channels.
Earlier at Levi’s, Rosen held executive roles overseeing the direct-to-consumer business. He was responsible for leading the company’s global e-commerce and retail businesses, including 3,000 stores, resulting in what the company described as “transformational growth.” Prior to Levi’s, Rosen spent 14 years at Walmart Inc. in a variety of senior leadership functions, ultimately serving as senior vice president of global e-commerce. He began his career at Ernst & Young, providing strategic retail advisory services.
Emphasizing that Penney’s, which has 670 stores, has improved its financial health, the company indicated current liquidity of $1.5 billion and said it plans to “continue building on the momentum established this year.” Penney’s indicated several strategies employed to help improve the business, including recently introducing six new private brands, as well as relaunching some private brands and adding some exclusive brands from the market. Notable portfolio additions include Ryegrass, Linden Street, Thereabouts, Stylus and Juicy by Juicy Couture.
Penney’s has also rebuilt its beauty business, to replace the exit of Sephora shops from Penney’s stores. Ten “pilot” JCPenney Beauty shops opened inside Penney’s stores in mid-October, and the recast beauty assortment debuted on jcp.com. Beginning in fall 2022, Penney’s will roll out the beauty shops to the rest of the 650-unit department store chain. The project is expected to be completed sometime in 2023.
Once Sephora ended its partnership with Penney’s, only to form a new one with Kohl’s, a direct competitor, a new beauty strategy urgently had to be developed. The competitive climate has been compounded by Target, another competitor, forming a partnership with Ulta. Both the Kohl’s-Sephora and Target-Ulta agreements were disclosed in December 2020, at which time Penney’s disclosed it had begun working on a new beauty scheme.
Soltau, working with Michelle Wlazlo, who continues as chief merchant, had a strategy of differentiating and sharpening the identity of key in-house labels, like St. John’s Bay, Xersion and a.n.a. They also reset the women’s selling floors with an easier-to-shop, lifestyle format with enhanced visuals and more thoughtful and obvious mannequin setups. What was a confusing sea of racks and aura of “stuff” had been disappearing. The company also closed scores of underperforming stores and eliminated several merchandise programs, including appliances.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this storied brand and build on the progress the J.C. Penney team has made under their new ownership group,” Rosen said in a statement. “I have spent my career focused on iconic American retailers and it has given me a unique perspective on the value of heritage brands. Joining at this milestone moment in the company’s history, I am eager to propel the business into its next era and connect with our customers in new ways.”