Hard Times Spark Big Changes At JCPenney, Chico's, Gymboree

Along with post-holiday clearance sales, January is typically the month when weaker retail brands make tough decisions, and this year is no exception. While many stores posted robust seasonal gains, struggling JCPenney is announcing major management changes, Chico’s is closing hundreds of stores and Gymboree is tiptoeing toward bankruptcy.

The JCPenney shakeup includes the departure of CMO Marci Grebstein, who joined the Plano, Tex.-based retailer back in 2017. A spokesperson tells Marketing Daily Grebstein will pursue other opportunities, and that marketing duties will be handled by a yet-to-be-hired chief customer officer.

The company says that exec will “drive aggressive customer-centric strategies to grow traffic, engagement and retention of its customer,” as well as revitalize brand and marketing efforts, improve the digital experience and boost customer loyalty.



It’s also hired Truett Horne, an associate principal at McKinsey & Company, as chief transformation officer, reporting to CEO Jill Soltau, who joined the company last year.

The company says it is also searching for a chief merchant.

At Chico’s, the specialty retailer focused on older women, plans call for shuttering 250 of its stores in the next three years as it tries to shift its emphasis to the digital world. Besides partnerships with Amazon, QVC and ShopRunner, it is developing tools “to capture and stay connected with its eight million customers in new ways, whether in-store, online or virtually, and to fully activate its omnichannel strategy.”

The Fort Myers, Fla.-based clothing chain says it now anticipates a sales drop in the low-double digits this quarter, after previously predicting a decline in the mid-teens.

Meanwhile, Gymboree is reportedly close to its second bankruptcy in two years, which will result in the closure of 900 stores. And business is so bad at Pier 1 that it’s just gotten a de-listing warning from the New York Stock Exchange.

Those soft spots are in sharp contrast with a thriving retail economy. The International Council of Shopping Centers reports that 70% of U.S. adults went to a mall or shopping center this holiday, and that 93% of spent money at retailers with a physical presence.

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