For J.C. Penney buyers, there’s less muss and fuss these days.
This story first appeared in the April 4, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We’re feeling very liberated,” chief merchant Liz Sweney said in an interview. “There’s this whole notion now of merchants really being curators of products and brands from around the world and being freed up from worrying about pricing strategy.”
As part of Penney’s four-year reinvention, pricing has been simplified, so it’s based on everyday low prices, monthly values and clearances the first and third Fridays of every month. There are no more high-low pricing, coupons or door busters. There’s also no more markdown money or cooperative advertising dollars to pursue.
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That has enabled buyers to focus more on products and editing the assortment. From vendors in many countries, “There’s been true interest,” Sweney said, and that means Penney’s, with its Middle America appeal, could start carrying a greater selection of European product. “I think we are evaluating all brands,” including European and American brands, the company is seeking. “Our advantage is we have the real estate and the locations, and without the new pricing strategy our attractiveness to new brands would have been limited. We are reinventing the home store for next spring,” including adding Martha Stewart. “There is a rigorous effort in all merchandise categories.”
This year so far, clutter reduction and the new marketing and logo are the most visible changes on the selling floors. In terms of adding labels, “this spring, we didn’t do much,” Sweney said, though she did say the product is more colorful. “As we move through fall, you will see a lot more newness on the floor — reenergized brands and new brands, and you will see [greater] editing,” Sweney said. “Quite frankly, from an old strategy perspective, it’s about what we need to edit out. We’re making some tough calls. We want to have quick turns and eliminate what’s redundant.”
A few sources believe that labels without brand-name recognition, as well as those that produce basics and some in-house lines, such as East 5th, are vulnerable. As reported, American Living, the label developed by Ralph Lauren’s Global Brand Concepts Division, exclusively for Penney’s, will be discontinued after the spring season.
Over the years, Penney’s has bolstered its lineup with exclusive brands such as Olsenboye, Allen B., I [Heart] Ronson, Bisou Bisou, Nicole by Nicole Miller, One Kiss jewelry by Cindy Crawford, Liz Claiborne and MNG by Mango, to varying degrees of success.