Posted by Abe Sauer on March 1, 2010 12:46 PM
JC Penney is as iconic as American department store brands come. Since the early 20th century, it has been a reliable source for back-to-school outfits, office uniforms, underwear, and socks – all the basics. However, few would use the term "high fashion" to characterize the brand. But if JC Penney has its way, that is going to change, and soon.
Chairman and Chief Executive Myron E. Ullman made the brand's intentions clear after the store posted very positive Q4 results: "We intend to expand our market share. This means we work to increase visits and spending from our existing customers as well as find ways to reach new ones." He added that JC Penney would not reach these new customers by further discounting, but instead by expanding its exclusive lines: "Our focus for  is driving top-line growth."
JC Penney will be storming the Academy Awards broadcast this coming Sunday. During the pre-awards red carpet fashion ceremony, ads promoting the brand's new tagline – "New look. New day. Who knew?" – will frame JC Penney's exclusive designer offerings, including Joseph Abboud, Allen Schwartz, Michele Bohbot, Cindy Crawford, Nicole Miller, and a youth line by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. The nine-time exclusive retail sponsor of the Academy Awards, JC Penney will run six half-minute commercials.
But how much effort will it take to change and enhance entrenched consumer perceptions of the Penney’s brand as one of simplicity, basics, and value? Can it be done at all?
The brand has a long and solid history, but it’s that same legacy that makes this move a monumental challenge. There is also the risk that the brand could become too focused on the top-line and neglect the core values that has kept it popular for a century.
Yet, it would be stunning if, ten years from now, as an answer to the red carpet question, "Who are you wearing?" we heard, "JC Penney."