JC PENNEY TRIES A NEW MAKEOVER – CORPORATE

Now that Penney’s has a new CEO, the retailer is looking at ways to update the stores.

CEO Jill Soltau has outfitted a store in Hurst, Texas with a fitness studio, a video game lounge, and style classes.  But the plans are not to apply this model to all stores but, rather, to test ideas at this store before rolling them out to other locations.  Soltau is also focused on getting back to basics for Penney’s – she is making stores easier to shop by removing piles of excess goods and getting out of less profitable categories such as appliances (ref WSJ).  And in about 10% of the stores, Soltau is directing that products be grouped by lifestyle – rather then display all women’s tops together they would be categorized by activity – work, active, casual, dress.  Soltau says, “In recent years, we veered away from knowing and delivering what customers want – we won’t make that mistake going forward.”  Penney’s is saddled with a $4 billion debt as a result of the makeover of an earlier CEO; the company has hired advisers to explore a potential debt restructuring.  The company will report quarterly earnings this week – and, perhaps, as CEO Soltau suggests, it’s all a matter of going forward from here.

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