Penney Chief Wants To Win Hearts, Minds and Wallets of Middle Class
By George Anderson
In a meeting with Wall Street analysts, J.C. Penney chairman and chief executive Myron “Mike” Ullman said the retail chain is looking “to win the hearts and minds of middle-income consumers.”
Calling the present period one of unique opportunity, Mr. Ullman said the combination of “the turmoil in the industry” along with Penney’s product and merchandising strategy position the company for a period of dramatic growth.
As for the turmoil Mr. Ullman spoke about, he indicated he was not terribly concerned about competition from the newly combined Sears and Kmart. According to Penney’s chief, it will probably take Sears Holdings years “trying to figure out how to execute whatever they’re planning to be.” Once it does, he said, it is very likely that it will be more of a discounter than department store.
The turmoil also offers opportunities for growth through new locations. Penney’s focus on off-mall locations has been a success, say company executives.
Penney’s president, Ken Hicks, said the company has increased its gross sales per square foot by $15 or 11 percent to $150 since 2001.
Mr. Hicks gives credit to Penney’s success for the chain’s ability to develop its own branded clothes that meet the fashion needs of its core shopper — women between the ages of 35 and 54 with household incomes between $35,000 and $85,000.
Recent rollouts of new lines such as nicole by Nicole Miller and W Work To Weekend have been well received.
Moderator’s Comment: What is your assessment of the opportunities currently in front of J.C. Penney due to the competitive environment and its own actions?
What challenges will it need to overcome if it is going to achieve the dramatic growth predicted by its chairman and CEO?
J.C. Penney’s message was very upbeat and it does have some wind in its “sales” at the moment. We have to admit being a bit concerned when we read the following
quote attributed to Mike Ullman. “One has to assume that this $10 billion apparel business out there, that we deserve more than our fair share of those customers.”
To Mr. Ullman, we would offer the following caution. Remember what they say about people who ass-u-me. –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Having recovered, J.C. Penney ready to grow – Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- J.C. Penney fending off suitors – Bloomberg News/The News Tribune
- Penney CEO says moderate shoppers up for grabs – The Associated Press/Miami
Herald (free reg. required)
- Penney Exec addresses analysts – Dallas Business Journal