JCPenney’s Latest Turnaround Effort? Rebooting Its Private Women’s Label

JCPenney announced today the relaunch of its in-house women’s label, A.n.a — with a fresh focus on size-inclusive denim.

The revamp is the result of customer research, the Texas-based company said, with the aim of establishing A.n.a. as its go-to denim lifestyle brand for women.

“With the reimagination of our A.n.a brand to be more denim focused and friendly, we will continue to establish ourselves as a destination for casual apparel and accessories,” said  EVP and chief merchant Michelle Wlazlo in a release.

As traditional retailers seek ways to draw consumers amid an evolving retail climate, several are looking to private labels as a way to attract consumers.

Macy’s announced this week that it is doubling down on in-house labels, with the hopes of growing four of its top labels into $1 billion brands. Target launched All in Motion, an athletic and sporting goods brand, last month, which it predicts could do $1 billion in sales in its first year. And Walmart has revived the once-defunct fashion label Scoop, with product rolling out online and in stores this year.

While JCP’s strategy mirrors that of competitors, Jessica Ramirez, retail research analyst at Jane Hali & Associates, isn’t confident that A.n.a will gain traction.

We are noting various retailers focusing on private label. While turning to private label is a positive, it does not work for everyone,” Ramirez explained, adding that Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods have succeeded with private labels “mostly because they are focused on the consumer and their interest. With Target, the brands have strong branding and the consumer is aware of those brands.”

“When we look at private label at Macy’s and JCP, we don’t see the same strength, Ramirez continued. “Their private labels do not stand out to the consumer and are not a go-to.”

Women’s apparel and accessories is JCPenney’s largest category, having represented 22% of all net sales in 2018 ($11.66 billion), just above men’s apparel and accessories, which made up 21% of net sales. In August, the retailer teamed up with resale platform ThredUp in an attempt to tap into the growing re-commerce market, launching a selection of ThredUp’s secondhand apparel and accessories in 30 stores.

JCPenney has not reported a quarterly revenue gain since the 2017 holiday season, struggling over the past several quarters with sluggish trends, leadership changes and increased digital competition. The company’s stock price is currently below $1 (at market open, shares were trading at just 73 cents), putting it at risk of delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.

The firm will report its fourth quarter earnings on Feb. 27. In January, JCP reported a 7.5% drop in same-store sales for the nine-week period ending Jan. 4. Adjusted comps, which excluded the impact of its exit from major appliance and in-store furniture categories, were down by 5.3%. Despite the slide in holiday sales, the retailer reaffirmed its outlook for the fiscal year; it expects a 5% to 6% dip in adjusted comps and for same-store sales to drop in the range of 7% to 8%.

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