Penney Gets ‘Skool’d’ on Teens

Aug 29, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

J.C. Penney’s turnaround in recent years has been remarkable, even more so, when you consider the department store chain has focused increased attention on fickle teenagers to help it achieve success.

Recently, Penney launched a back-to-school Web site,, that includes a backing hip-hop music track, dance instructions at “get skool’d”, information on participating in the Penney BTS (back-to-school) All Access Dance Contest at malls around the country and of course the latest styles from the retailer on display along with a link to for shoppers who are inclined to make their purchases online.

Keeping up with teens is no easy task, admits Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer at J.C. Penney. The typical fashion cycle for this target audience is eight to 12-weeks, according to Penney’s CMO, so speed to market is essential.

“Aside from the marketing, you need to have on-trend product — otherwise you’re just going to turn them off and end up wasting a lot of money,” he told Reuters.

Figuring out teenagers is a full-time job with overtime as many parents will testify and there are aspects of this group’s current buying patterns that retailers need to understand.

When it comes to back-to-school, kids are willing to put off apparel purchases.

Marshal Cohen, senior industry analyst at retail research company NPD Group, said many kids are not interested in interrupting their summer vacation to shop for school. Also, many wait until school has begun to see what others are wearing before making the decision on what they will buy.

This peer pressure aspect of apparel purchasing is very strong in today’s kids and they’re willing to pay to stay in style.

“We’re seeing teens want a high-end look at an aspirational price. They are less price sensitive than their parents,” said Penney’s Boylson.

Moderator’s Comment: What is your assessment of Penney’s approach to teen marketing? What retail companies are the
best at serving teen consumers and what makes them superior to all the others going after the same target market?

George Anderson – Moderator

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2 Comments on "Penney Gets ‘Skool’d’ on Teens"

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Mark Burr
15 years 6 months ago

As the father of a teen daughter, mom and daughter did most of the shopping this year, and Dad — well, he wandered the mall seeking an excellent cup of coffee. There were things being purchased there that I really didn’t want to know about.

What I can say, as the guy who got the receipts, JCP got nearly all of the purchases. I was surprised. I was even more surprised at their ability to capture a very diverse clientele. Even more so, I was surprised by the store conditions. This wasn’t the most hip place you could shop. It was, however, meeting the needs of those shopping and the numbers were significant by comparison. There’s something going on there. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It’s not the decor, it’s not the displays, it’s not the service….hmmmmm

Now about that coffee…

Mark Lilien
15 years 6 months ago

Aeropostale, Old Navy, and Abercrombie & Fitch all have great teen appeal and excellent financial results. Their fashion/price/marketing combination is superior to many other retailers. When strategy and execution are both excellent, financial results can’t be beat.


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