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J.C. Penney Launches First "Store-In-A-Store" Friday

J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.

A Canadian clothing brand called Joe Fresh travels south tomorrow, to about 700 J.C. Penney stores. It’s the first of several Penney ‘store in a store’ lines aimed at younger buyer. Can Joe Fresh can help revive a struggling, stale Plano-based JC Penney?

The retailing giant needs something. More than a year ago, J.C. Penney dropped sales and coupons in exchange for everyday low pricing. Since then, it has lost $1 billion  and laid off 20,000 people .  

“They’ve lost 30 percent of their business. It’s just gone away.  That’s an incredible hurdle for a retailer to try to clear.”

Ed Fox is a Marketing Professor at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business. He tracks J.C. Penney. He says Joe Fresh has sold well for Penney online and may work in stores. But by the time Penney fully implements its ‘store in a store’ plan, it may be too late.  Gabriella Santaniello, retail analyst  at Wedbush Securities, says Penney needs the fashion-conscious customer it’s targeting  because it has left it’s middle and lower income core out to dry.

“While they’re trying to court a younger consumer, a hipper consumer, they’re forgetting this moderate customer. They’ve brought in these hip,  cool brands which, at the end of the day, the consumer who has been shopping J.C. Penney is not really going to identify with.”

Santaniello and Fox say that leaves the chain in a sort of no man’s land, with confused customers who don’t know who J.C. Penney is anymore.  

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.