JCPenney Speeds Up 'Transformation Plan'


Editor's Note: This story has been updated*.

JCPenney has been on a mission, determined to shake off its dowdy image and convince consumers that it is the destination for fun, affordable fashion. Now, the Plano, Texas-based retailer says it will pick up the pace of that makeover, unveiling a new five-year plan for investors and analysts that calls for sales of $23 billion by 2014, driven primarily by comparable-store sales growth.

"It's a new day at JCPenney, thanks to the steps we have taken to be a style destination," Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, chairman and chief executive officer, says in its release. "We are now focused on taking our transformation to the next level by introducing new initiatives in support of our vision to be America's favorite shopping destination for great styles at compelling prices."



Some analysts were pleased. Describing the move as a switch from defense to offense, Bill Dreher Jr., an analyst who follows the company for Deutsche Bank Securities, writes that growth in the next five years "will be driven largely by an increase in share of current customer's wallets, with some incremental market share gains. The launch of Liz Claiborne and the MNG by Mango concept this fall will help sales accelerate."

Reaching out to younger shoppers is key to the company's strategy, and it says it wants to attract a stronger 25- to-44-year-old customer base. In addition to major initiatives, such as the Liz Claiborne and Mango launch, it will continue to introduce private-label brands that are intended to tempt these young moms: For example, the company just announced it will introduce Uproar, a new brand aimed at tweens, in time for the back-to-school season.

The company also says it will continue to spend on store renovations, including the continued rollout of its "highly successful" Sephora boutiques.

In another attempt to build its fashion cred, the company also announced a partnership with People StyleWatch this week. Starting in September, the magazine's editors will select "Must Have" items from Penney, which will be showcased in stores, online, and through print and digital media. And starting next February, Penney shoppers will be able to purchase special in-store subscription offers to popular Time Inc publications -- including People, People StyleWatch and InStyle in all 1,110 of JCPenney stores. (A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the subscriptions will go to JCPenney's pet cause, after-school programs for kids.)

Online sales are also emerging as a key growth component. "The company has a solid online reputation in home, and a large share of this market. Significant opportunity remains in apparel, accessories, and shoes," Dreher writes, since Penney's share of these sales online is low.

But, he adds, the company's strength in home -- a category that has been walloped during the recession -- still poses a risk.

*Sales at JC Penney rose 5.4% in March.

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