JCPenney has been in the news a lot lately; the retailer is very publicly trying to change its stodgy image and bring exciting brands to the store, with the ultimate goal of, naturally, getting people to shop there again. A Target-esque merchandising strategy was rolled out by JCP’s new-ish CEO Ron Johnson at the beginning of the year, featuring collaborations with established designers and a new shop-in-shop format instead of an open selling floor. But will it work?
First let’s look at some of its hires. JCP pissed off a bunch of conservatives by hiring Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, but this hire is a rather inspired choice. Despite a minority of disgruntled right-wingers, DeGeneres is certainly beloved by middle America and trendier locales alike, and her nerdy-hip image works. We can totally see her buying sheets as well as her favorite sneakers at JCP–she’s relatable. A hire that caused a bit more of a head-scratch is Nick Wooster, the new creative director for the men’s fashion division, who’s best known for his work with high-end retailers. It remains to be seen if he can make–allow us a teeny bit of a stereotype here–beer swilling Midwestern guys buy into his men’s aesthetic. Wooster is going to have to adapt for the masees.
JCP recently purchased the Liz Claiborne label, and will carry it exclusively; this is obviously a move to keep JCP’s core/traditional shopper happy. But JCP has also snagged an impressive amount of trendy fashion collabs. Nicole Miller, the Olsens, Nanette Lepore, Charlotte Ronson, and Mango all have lower-priced lines with the retailer, not to mention Sephora shop-in-shops. These are different than the Target collabs, though, which are limited edition, therefore igniting a feeding frenzy and tons of publicity for the retailer (see: Jason Wu for Target.) These JCP collabs have been ongoing over several seasons, so the challenge is to get the traditional JCP shopper to realize, “Hey, this is fashion!” and to attract the Zara/H&M/Forever21 shoppers who are looking for trendy finds. The younger shopper is obviously high up on the priority list for JCP, and its newest rumored collab gives an indication of the demographic it’s going after.
Today WWD is reporting that Cosmopolitan–you know, the magazine–is doing a line for the retailer. Bags, lingerie, accessories and jewelry designed by the “fun, fearless, female” editorial staff will launch this fall. Supposedly Cosmo will use this collab to launch content on the new much-hyped YouTube “Hello Style” series.
So will it work? To the observer, it looks like a random hodge podge of brands all thrown together into a retail salad. And convincing a generation who has grown up with really good fast fashion to shop at the same place where their grandmothers do is still going to be an uphill challenge. Would you/do you shop at JCPenney?