Jill Soltau, J.C. Penney

jill_soltau_jcpenneyThe August 19 edition of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® revealed the 14th annual “People To Watch” in housewares during the next 12 months.

Selected by HomeWorld Business editors, “People To Watch” represents a cross section of a diverse housewares business— from established to newly installed company leaders; from large to small operations, from big-box to specialty retailers; from trade show managers to celebrity endorsers.

The HomeWorld “People To Watch” are in the spotlight not only for how they might impact their respective organizations in the coming months, but also for how they might impact the overall housewares business.

Jill Soltau, J.C. Penney, CEO

CREDENTIALS: Before joining J.C. Penney, Jill Soltau was CEO of Joann Stores, a specialty retailer of fabrics and crafting supplies with about 850 stores across the United States. When it announced her hiring, the retailer emphasized that she helped reinvigorate the Joann brand and improved its market position by taking a consumer-oriented approach to determine and deliver compelling assortments. Also important was an emphasis on providing shoppers with helpful advice and memorable experiences that they were encouraged to share on social media. Prior to joining Joann, Soltau held executive positions at Shopko, including president and evp/chief merchandising officer. In addition, she has had merchandising, planning and private brand management responsibilities at Sears, Kohl’s and Carson Pirie Scott.

WHAT TO WATCH: Soltau has laid out her plan to turn J.C. Penney around. Among the specific goals are providing strategic clarity to employees that the company will be focused on serving the customer and growing in a sustainable and profitable manner as well as establishing clear priorities while applying discipline to ensure efforts to generate the most long-term value. Other goals include building capabilities to support priorities so those responsible in the company are equipped to deliver on goals and develop a results-minded culture focused on accountability, urgency and innovative problem-solving at all levels of the organization. Recently, Soltau told investors she is happy with the progress J.C. Penney has made in setting the key objectives, building the senior management team to execute against them and mobilizing the organization around the established priorities.

PERSPECTIVE: Soltau has a big job ahead of her. She has hired executives with deep experience in retailing, but the question remains: Are they the right people to help revive JCP in an omnichannel environment where the company once had some success, particularly in the home merchandise, but is more challenged today? Also, will the shift away from major appliances and in-store furniture and a greater reliance on apparel and soft home help or hurt JCP given the struggles that the company has had in establishing itself as a fashion retailer?

2020 HomeWorld Business People To Watch (click on name for profile):

Rich Krause, Capital Brands

Jill Soltau, J.C. Penney

Marcelo Borges, Tramontina USA

Ross Patterson, Robinson Home

Dave Albert, Spectrum Brands

Christopher Banning, Meyer Corp. U.S.

Kris Malkoski, Arc Americas

Bryan Welsh, SodaStream U.S.

Todd Wanek, Ashley Furniture

Mike Otterman, Lodge

Mike Bauer, Libbey

Corie Barry, Best Buy

Lee Bird, At Home

Ryan Ross, Williams Sonoma

Mark Eichhorn, The Oneida Group

Ravi Saligram, Newell Brands

Derek Miller, International Housewares Association

Arthur Zambelli, Bradshaw Home

Mads Ryder, Lenox Corp.

Jay Jordan, Home Meridian