J.C. Penney Co. is propping up its plus-size business by piloting The Boutique, a new format appearing at 12 of its stores beginning Oct. 9.
“This is a business we have always been very good at — but we can be even better,” said Siiri Dougherty, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel.
She characterized women of a certain size as “a very underserved demographic.” Based on Penney’s research and focus groups, Dougherty noted, “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction. They’re not finding clothes that fit them, and in particular younger women don’t feel like they can find clothes that suit their style. She wants a place dedicated for her, a special environment and more modern merchandise. And she doesn’t want to be disconnected from the rest of the store.”
To mirror the in-store experience, the plus-size landing page on Penney’s Web site is being renamed The Boutique.
“The whole idea creates a unique and special environment, whether she is looking for clothes to go to the gym, or for a social occasion, and anything in between,” Dougherty said. “Additionally, our goal is to enable her to complete her look with accessories. We are going to do some cross-merchandising.”
Dougherty called The Boutique an elevated shopping environment that will show more contemporary clothing choices than Penney’s has shown in the past, while also continuing to offer traditional styles for older customers. Sizes range from 14W to 24W and 1X to 3X. Online, Penney’s plus sizes range from 14 to 30, 1X to 5X.
Square footage of The Boutique areas will vary depending on the location. Penney’s declined to reveal the locations, though it was learned that Penney’s in the Bay Plaza mall by Co-op City in the Bronx will house The Boutique.
“One of the biggest changes is that we are branding the department and creating zones,” for different categories such as denim, active, dresses, wear-to-work,” Dougherty added.
For The Boutique, “We have really focused on an expanded offering of modern and contemporary,” including Penney’s a.n.a. private brand, and by introducing certain brands, such as Bisou Bisou and Levi’s, which have been sold online at Penney’s in plus sizes, but are being introduced to its stores via The Boutique. Other brands that have been sold in plus sizes in stores and online, such as Xersion for active, will have an expanded assortment, as will dresses. On the more traditional side, Alfred Dunner is a key brand in plus sizes, along with Liz Claiborne, Worthington, St. John’s Bay, and Stylus.
To promote The Boutique, Penney’s will engage in local marketing by reaching out to customers via postcards, e-mails, digital and social media.
Special-size customers are “very loyal customers,” Dougherty said. “She wants to feel valued. She wants a place to go shop and find everything to fit her lifestyle. All too often [plus] size customers are treated like she just wants to cover her body.”