JC Penney is one of America's best-known general retail groups, specialising in clothing, accessories and home furnishings but it has struggled for several years to reignite performance. The company first began to lose sales and market share in the 1990s as customers moved away to less traditional outlets, especially discounters such as Walmart. Penney's fought back with a marketing campaign designed to show that its department stores offer casual as well as conservative fashion at affordable prices. But the company also had to close several stores, and restructure others in order to regain profitability. Financial performance improved significantly between 2004 and 2007, before hitting a brick wall at the end of the decade as a result of the recession. Despite its best efforts to-date, Penney's has found it hard to shake off perceptions that it is a tired and slightly dowdy brand. A new management team led by former Apple Stores chief Ron Johnson launched an ambitious overhaul of JCP's strategy in 2012, but not only did the long-expected turnaround fail to materialise but in fact performance significantly worsened, leading to another management overhaul a year later. The group is still searching for a lasting fix. Jill Soltau was appointed as CEO in 2018, taking over from Marv Ellison. As of 2019, JCP had 864 stores across 49 US states. Apparel and accessories account for almost 75% of sales. The group has a substantial portfolio of top-selling private label brands including Arizona Jeans, Worthington, St John's Bay, Decree and Okie Dokie. It acquired the Liz Claiborne fashion label as well as jewellery sideline Monet in 2012. Former football star Michael Strahan, now a top TV host, also has his own menswear line at the chain. Private label accounts for a little under half of revenues. Group sales for the year to Feb 2019 were $11.7bn, down by almost two-thirds in two decades. The company reported its eighth consecutive net loss, of $255m.
Capsule checked 10th July 2019
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Historical profile information for JC Penney
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Oct 2018: Struggling retailer JC Penney finally named its new CEO after a five month search. Jill Soltau joins the company next week from fabric and crafts retailer JoAnn Stores. She steps into shoes vacated by Marv Ellison in May when he departed to lead home improvement giant Lowe's.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th May 2018: Marv Ellison is to leave struggling retailer JC Penney next week to take over as head of Lowe's. Incumbent Robert Niblock is retiring after 25 years as CEO of America's second largest home improvement store. JC Penney has begun the search for a new CEO. In the mean time, it will be led by a four-person senior management team that includes CFO Jeff Davis and chief customer officer Joe McFarland.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: JC Penney unveiled a grim set of results for the latest quarter, lowering expectations for the all-important holiday quarter ahead. A move to clear out slow-moving apparel inventory in September and October lifted revenues but caused a sharp decline in profitability, forcing the struggling retailer to lower expectations for the full year. That pushed Penney's share price to record lows, driving down its market cap to just $970m. At that price, "Amazon should buy JCPenney for 'pennies'," suggested a columnist for Forbes magazine, to create a network of "store fronts and distribution centers for its online merchandise that caters to middle and low-income shoppers".
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Oct 2015: McGarryBowen bounced back from the loss of the Sears retail business last week with the capture of the (rather more financially stable) JC Penney, which unveiled a clean sweep of its marketing roster. Digital agencies EVB and We Are Social also bid farewell to the account and were replaced by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons' Narrative agency.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Apr 2015: JC Penney appointed former Mondelez CMO Mary Beth West as its new chief customer & marketing officer. She was already a director of the troubled apparel retailer, and succeeds Debra Berman, who left the company last month.
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