Marvin Ellison, chief executive officer of J.C. Penney Co. Inc., said the retailer was on track for the back-to-school season, taking some tricks from the fast-fashion playbook and looking to boost sales in shoes.
“We’re very pleased with our back-to-school performance,” Ellison told analysts and investors at the Goldman Sachs’ 22nd Annual Global Retailing Conference in New York Wednesday. “As we look at the balance of the fall, we talk about delivering midsingle digit [comparable-store sales gains] for the fall season. We are very comfortable that we can deliver on those expectations. We understand that there’s work to do…but we feel very good about the trajectory of the business. The team just has to execute.”
Ellison, the former Home Depot executive who officially took the reins at Penney’s last month, said the retailer was learning from fast-fashion competitors. He pointed to the company’s private label brand Belle + Sky and said it had streamlined design and approval processes.
“We are way too bureaucratic and we are often times our worst enemy,” said Ellison, adding that he could pick and choose elements of quick-turn retailers to incorporate in the business. “You don’t have to try to replicate fast fashion in totality.”
Asked about a comment his predecessor, Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd made to WWD about Penney’s average price point being $15, Ellison said the company could boost its overall sales by better capturing customers once they come into stores.
“The average female customers today that purchase apparel in a J.C. Penney, only 21 percent of them will purchase shoes,” Ellison said. “As we think about that imbalance, it gives me an opportunity to find ways to improve our shoe assortment, which we’ve done over the past couple of months.”
Likewise, he said the retailer was testing an approach that put fashion accessories and watches next to its popular Sephora shops to entice the beauty customer to spend more.
He noted that the company had about 87 million customers in both 2011 and today, but that shoppers are coming less frequently and paying a lower average unit retail price.
Ellison joined the company in November as president and ceo-designee and is starting to talk the talk of the fashion retail ceo, noting at the conference that he was wearing a suit from the company’s collaboration with former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. He noted, though, that Strahan wore the look better.