JCPenney Names Grebstein As CMO

JCPenney, which has been without a marketing chief since March, says Marci Grebstein will start as its new EVP/CMO next month.

Grebstein, who most recently was CMO of Lowe’s, reports to CEO Marvin R. Ellison and is joining JC Penney at a challenging time amid large losses, store closures and lingering doubts about how the middle-American department store can find its way in the Amazon era.

Grebstein has also held key marketing roles at Food Lion of Delhaize America and spent 16 years at Staples. She replaces May Beth West, who left several months ago to sign on as the chief growth officer at Hershey. 

Earlier this month, the Plano, Texas-based retailer reported sales of $2.7 billion in its fiscal first quarter, down $2.8 billion last year, with comparable-store sales falling 3.5%. And it posted a loss of $180 million, due to the cost of its extensive store closures and an early retirement program.



Sales in its Sephora departments, e-commerce and major appliance departments did well, however, and it reaffirmed its full-year forecast, expecting sales to come in between 1% lower and 1% higher.

Industry observers are expressing concern about the company’s setback in its recovery plans, and the stock hit some record lows. While Managing Director of GlobalData Retail Neil Saunders sees potential in its appliance business -- especially as competitor Sears continues to weaken -- Penney “failed to attract customers to its stores,” he writes in his reaction to earnings. And while Sephora continues to be its brightest performer, attracting younger and bigger-spending consumers, “the real challenge is how to persuade customers visiting Sephora to become loyal JCP shoppers who visit and spend in other areas of the store.”

UBS, in response to its results, reportedly sent a note to clients saying JC Penney has “a tough path forward.”

Still, the company is looking to leverage its strengths in new ways. It just announced a B2B move into hospitality, offering services for hotel, motel and multi-unit residential industries, with bulk orders of bedding, bath, window treatments and appliances. "Our entry into the B2B program reinforces our home refresh initiative,” CEO Ellison says in that announcement, “while providing new and innovative ways to achieve sustainable growth and profitability.”

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