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J.C. Penney Hosts Stewart, Adler And Exclusive Brands At Launch Event

At a press event in New York last night, J.C. Penney Co. gave the media a look at the changes emerging in its home department, including a range of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia-developed products delivered under its founder’s name and otherwise. As permitted in the ongoing legal dispute with Macy’s involving MSLO, J.C. Penney may carry some Martha label products and offer others developed under her auspices but without using her brand name.

J.C. Penney is rolling out the Stewart product along with a new store-within-a-store home merchandising program to 500 of its locations across the United States.

Martha Stewart attended the event in New York as did other of the company’s product development partners including Jonathan Adler and Michael Graves.

At the event, Stewart told HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® that the initial rollout of the new merchandising program is nearing completion at the 500 designated J.C. Penney stores.

“I was in the 32nd Street store and not all the product is in the store yet, but it’s coming,” she said.

She noted that J.C. Penney stores would offer product under the Martha Stewart Celebrations line officially branded as MarthaHome at J.C. Penney. However, items designated as Everyday would launch without a Martha label due to the ongoing litigation about rights under the Macy’s deal with Martha Stewart Living.

Paul Rutenis, senior vp and general merchandise manager, home division, said that some stores were just finishing up reconstruction of their home departments but that the re-merchandising initiative was, effectively, complete.

J.C. Penney had developed the new home re-merchandising, he said, as a way of reaching out to consumers who didn’t normally shop its stores without alienating the traditional customer.

The home re-merchandising has been modified in some degree since the departure of Ron Johnson earlier this year. The former J.C. Penney CEO developed the store-within-a-store merchandising concept. A criticism of Johnson was that his re-merchandising, pricing and related initiatives had disaffected core J.C. Penney customers. The situation led to precipitous comparable store sales declines, Johnson’s departure and the rehiring of  former CEO Mike Ullman.

New brands, including those showcased at the press event, provide J.C. Penney with fresh opportunities, Rutenis said. Just how those will line up will depend on the consumer reaction to the products showcased at the event. Brands showcased by the retailer include, in addition to those developed with Stewart, a range of exclusive to J.C. Penney items offered under the Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler, Michael Graves Design, Pantone Universe, Bodum, Design by Conran and Ording & Reda labels, bolstered in stores by established independent brands and more traditional private labels.

For his part, Jonathan Adler told HomeWorld Business that his deal with J.C. Penney allowed him to reach, because of its lower price, a wider audience with a brand that incorporated the “DNA” of his long-standing design work.

Rutenis said that J.C. Penney now faced a significant evaluation process as consumers interacted with the new proprietary products and merchandising, but that what the company learned from home department shoppers would have application throughout the store and bolster the retailer’s efforts to engage new customers.