The J. C. Penney Co. has named Jill Soltau chief executive officer, effective Oct. 15.

Soltau, a 30-year retail veteran, most recently served as president and chief executive officer of JoAnn Stores, the nation’s largest fabric and crafts retailer with over 850 stores. Earlier, she was president of Shopko Stores.

“Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” said Paul J. Brown, Penney’s board director and chairman of the search committee. “As we looked for the right person to lead this iconic company, we wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit. Not only is she an established ceo and former chief merchant, her depth of experience in product development, marketing, e-commerce and store operations have been an important basis for the turnaround work she spearheaded at prior companies.”

At Penney’s, Soltau will have a tough assignment to turnaround the struggling department store which targets middle-class mothers and their families. She succeeds Marvin Ellison, who abruptly left the chain last May to join Lowe’s.

But Soltau brings with her experience invigorating retail brands and working in apparel and accessories at Shopko and other department stores. For the last couple of years, Penney’s has been working to pump up its apparel and accessory offerings across men’s,women’s and childrens, as well as extended sizes, and executives have indicated that improving its fashion offerings is key to a successful turnaround of the business. The retailer has been rolling out new private brands while forging stronger partnerships with market brands such as Adidas and Nike. The company also a few seasons ago started to showroom large appliances.

However, recent results at the chain indicate there’s a long way to go to get out of the woods.

characterized Soltau as “a highly accomplished retail merchant and former general merchandise manager who was brought to JoAnn Stores to reinvigorate the brand and bolster its market position through a consumer-centric approach that offers compelling assortments, helpful advice and memorable experiences to be digitally shared with others. Under her leadership, the company has undergone a revitalization of branding, expanded digital and omnichannel capabilities and forged strategic partnerships to build meaningful relationships with its customers.”

Earlier, Soltau spent eight years at Shopko, most recently as president after serving as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer. She joined Shopko in 2007 and attained various executive positions of increasing responsibility including apparel and accessories.

 Prior to her tenure at Shopko, Ms. Soltau held several senior level positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management at Sears and Kohl’s, after starting her career with Carson Pirie Scott, which was later acquired by Saks Inc.

“JCPenney is a quintessential American brand with a strong and loyal customer base, and I couldn’t be prouder to lead such an iconic retailer,” said Soltau. “I am highly passionate about the customer and I spent my entire career focused on the needs of a value-based consumer by researching, understanding and meeting her expectations for style, quality and inspiration. Every position I’ve held has prepared me for this role, and I couldn’t be more excited to meet the talented and hard-working JCPenney teams and get to work.”

“I am delighted to welcome Jill to the JCPenney family. She is a strategic, customer-focused leader with a demonstrated track record of enhancing profitability and delivering results. Jill has the talent and passion to revitalize the business and position the Company for growth,” said Ronald W. Tysoe, chairman of the board. “Additionally, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Therace Risch, executive vice president, chief information and digital officer, and Mike Robbins, executive vice president of private brands and supply chain, for graciously serving in the Office of the CEO. Their loyalty and service will continue to be a valuable asset as they resume their respective leadership functions within the Company.”

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