JCPenney Ditches Appliances in a Bid to Focus on Fashion Sales

Come March, J.C. Penney will no longer house major appliances online or in stores.

The struggling retailer announced its decision to get out of that business starting Feb. 28 — the first major move by CEO Jill Soltau, who took the helm in October after former leader Marvin Ellison’s departure for Lowe’s in July.

In a statement, the company wrote that it was finalizing layout options per store, reducing the space devoted to appliance showrooms to cut inventory and drive more profitable growth. J.C. Penney is also ditching furniture from its physical stores, with their availability limited to JCP.com and select Puerto Rico stores.

“Optimizing the allocation of store space will enable us to prioritize and focus on the company’s legacy strengths in apparel and soft home furnishings, which represent higher-margin opportunities,” it added.

Appliances became a big push for Ellison, who sought to get into the business after a lengthy career with Home Depot and capitalize on the decline of Sears. However, washers, dryers, refrigerators and more failed to drive traffic for the department store chain, which saw drooping sales and even shares that fell below $1 in December — the first time in J.C. Penney’s history.

In the past year, the Plano, Texas-based company shut down underperforming stores, revealing in early January another round of closures over the next few months as it undergoes a wider evaluation of its brick-and-mortar portfolio. (The company operates about 850 stores across the country.)

It also deepened its focus on omnichannel offerings and added top-tier brands to its product mix as the company continued to lose ground with competitors such as Macy’s and Kohl’s.

Soltau intends to overhaul the company’s strategy by sprucing up its apparel and accessories offerings. J.C. Penney said that it would provide more information about the decision on Feb. 28, the day it releases fourth-quarter earnings and fiscal 2018 results.

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