The last few years have taught America that being a teacher isn’t easy. And the last few seasons of hit sitcom “Abbott Elementary” have driven home a related lesson: It’s even harder for those teachers to look good.
So JCPenney and Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products are rolling out a limited-edition “Abbott Elementary” collection that goes right to the heart of teachers’ ongoing fiscal struggles. Not only do they play with the show’s trademark dorkiness, every item costs less than $100. And half of the 50-piece collection is priced below $50.
“Too often, teachers and working families have to make a choice between comfort and fashion,” says chief merchandising officer Michelle Wlazlo in the announcement. “We wanted this collection to feature quality, stylish and relevant pieces that could seamlessly be mixed and matched at an affordable price, so any teacher can feel empowered to dress their ‘inner Abbott.’”
Some pieces, including a “kindness” tote bag and sweater, pay direct homage to Janine, the second-grade teacher played by Quinta Brunson, who created the ABC mockumentary show. Jabs and disses about Janine’s dweebish looks are an ongoing theme in the series.
The Plano, Texas-based retailer says the collection fits nicely into the ongoing “Make It Count” positioning, emphasizing the brand’s value for working families and commitment to inclusive product offers.
Instead of using the show’s stars for the campaign, ad spots for the new effort focus on real-life teachers, including viral heroes like Barry White, the North Carolina principal who aces student handshakes, and TikTok stars like Mrs. Bo, an Idaho math teacher, and Mr. Talcott, an online kindergarten teacher from Redmond, Washington.
The retailer also announced that the JCPenney Communities Foundation is giving $300,000 to the Walking Classroom, a group that promotes learning innovations that strengthen health and wellness.
The new collection comes as the retailer continues to push through challenges. The company recently announced a $1 billion investment in stores, even as sales decline.
The company emerged from its 2020 bankruptcy and is owned by mall companies Simon Property Group Inc. and Brookfield Property Partners. In recent filings to the Securities & Exchange Commission, JC Penney says sales fell 10% in the quarter ended July 29, to $1.61 billion, from $1.8 billion in the prior-year period. And net income plunged to $36 million from $104 million.
The company attributed the sales decline to macroeconomics, with working-class families feeling especially pinched. But the retailer also notes signs of resilience with customers visiting stores with increased frequency, a slight decline in credit income, and strong approval rates for new credit card applications.