As Hope for JCPenney Wanes, The Department Store Is Trying Everything to Get on Track — Including This

As it grapples with ongoing financial troubles amid an evolving retail environment, JCPenney is not going down without a fight.

In recent months, the Plano, Texas-based firm has rolled out a series of new offerings, including dipping its toes into the outdoor and consignment markets. Just today, it announced the launch of a curbside pickup program at 50 stores across the country.

For several quarters, JCP has struggled with sliding sales, numerous leadership changes and increased digital competition. These and other issues have spooked investors who sent the department store’s shares below $1, putting the company at risk of delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.

But amid an arguably bleak outlook, JCPenney has recently been experimenting with new strategies seemingly aimed at returning the business to its glory days.

Here, four recent tactics the company rolled out as it looks to get back on track.

Curbside Pickup

JCPenney announced today that it is rolling out its “Style on the Go” curbside pickup at an additional 50 stores after a pilot program. With Style on the Go, shoppers pick up items in person that they ordered online.

“We continue to make shopping at our stores even more convenient as we adapt to our customers’ needs so they can shop when, where, and how they want,” EVP of stores Jim DePaul said in a statement.

The program is similar to Walmart and Target’s existing curbside pickup options. Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) has been a widely used strategy in recent years for retailers to drive foot traffic amid digital disruption.

Women’s Private Label

Last month, JCPenney announced the relaunch of A.n.a, its in-house women’s label, focused on size-inclusive denim. The move is similar to steps taken by Macy’s, which hopes to grow four of its top labels into $1 billion brands, and Target, which launched athletic and sporting goods label All in Motion in 2020 with the goal of $1 billion in sales for the first year.

While JCP’s strategy mirrors that of the competition, Jessica Ramirez, retail research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates, isn’t convinced it will pay off.

“While turning to private label is a positive, it does not work for everyone,” she told FN. “When we look at private label at Macy’s and JCP, we don’t see the same strength [as at Target or Dick’s Sporting Goods]. [Macy’s and JCP’s] private labels do not stand out to the consumer and are not a go-to.”

Outdoor Brand

Despite Ramirez’s warning that private label efforts may not pay off, A.n.a isn’t JCP’s only recent attempt at building its in-house brands. In September 2019, the retailer introduced St. John’s Bay Outdoor, a new outdoor-focused line building on its existing in-house men’s brand. JCPenney also set up an outdoor shop online and in 100 of its outposts, with apparel from both St. John’s Bay Outdoor and other brands.

“With this expansion, JCPenney is taking part in the nearly $900 billion outdoor recreation industry by offering functional, durable apparel with our customer expectations at the core, all at an incredible value,” Wlazlo said.

Wlazlo added that this was an “entirely new category” for JCP.

ThredUp Partnership

JCPenney has also tried its hand at the expanding resale market. It joined forces with ThredUp in August 2019, bringing the online consignment giant’s wares to 30 JCP locations.

While brick-and-mortar has recently struggled, the resale market has been enjoying a steady rise. According to a 2019 ThredUp report, the sector has grown 21 times faster than traditional retail and is expected to hit $51 billion by 2023. In a release in August, Wlazlo said the partnership would cater to eco-minded consumers as well as to shoppers looking for low-priced luxury goods.

At the same time, other traditional retailers are also looking to resale. Macy’s announced a ThredUp partnership the day before JCP, and Neiman Marcus took a stake in the online consignment marketplace Fashionphile in April 2019.

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