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JCPenney Taps into Outdoor Market

[RETHINK Retail] — Reaching out to outdoor enthusiasts, JCPenney unveiled a new outdoor private label line for men last week and will open new outdoor shops at stores and online in October.

JCPenney launched the new line at 600 stores on Sept. 12, featuring St. John’s Bay Outdoor men’s jackets, vests, sweaters, graphic tees and woven shirts, all for under $45, according to a company statement. In addition to the new private label, JCPenney is opening outdoor themed shop-in-shops inside 100 of their stores and online Oct. 4.

“Created exclusively for JCPenney by our talented in-house product development and design team, St. John’s Bay Outdoor serves as the centerpiece of our Outdoor Shop and holds a unique place in our private brand portfolio,” said Michelle Wlazlo, chief merchant for JCPenney, in a company statement. “With this expansion, JCPenney is taking part in the nearly $900 billion outdoor recreation industry, by offering functional durable apparel with our customer expectations at the core, all at an incredible value.”

The outdoor shops will be set up in the men’s department and will feature three new brands to JCPenney, in addition to St. John’s Bay Outdoor. Shoppers can browse styles from American Threads, The American Outdoorsman and HI-TEC in the new stylish shops, designed to “inspire adventure and exploration of the great outdoors,” according to the company statement.



<em>St Johns Bay Outdoor | Photo courtesy of JCPenney<em>


Shops are planned to be approximately 800 square feet and feature outerwear from the four brands, including jackets, hoodies, pants, vests and shirts. According to JCPenney shoppers can expect to see the following products from each brand at the new shops:


  • American Threads, designed in the U.S. with inspiration from classic and denim workwear and sold exclusively at JCPenney this fall. Products will include a mix of quilted vests, sweaters and jackets.
  • The American Outdoorsman, each item from this brand will have specific features, including waterproof pockets, moisture-wicking fabric, sun protection and quick dry for temperature regulation. Customers can expect to find knits, hoodies, vests, jackets and pants.
  • HI-TEC, designed using the proprietary technology, DRI-TEC QUICK-DRI, DRI-TEC WATERPROOF, HI-TEC WIND RESISTANT, HI-TEC THERMO and HI-TEC FLEX. Products will include shirts, pants, fleeces, vests and outerwear in a variety of styles and colors suitable for indoor and outdoor.
  • St. John’s Bay Outdoor, JCPenney’s private label, will offer a range of products including jackets, vests, sweaters, graphic tees and woven shirts. There will also be shirt jackets reimagined with options including flannel lining, Sherpa-lined washed cotton and diamond-quilted soft jersey. Items will be priced between $11.99 and $44.99.


Will the new stores and private label help JCPenney make a comeback?

The move to tap into the outdoor market comes amid declining sales. CNBC reported that JCPenney’s sales declined faster than expected, despite a slower loss in their shares. The company’s new CEO, Jill Soltau, made several moves to help JCPenney make a comeback, including stopping the sale of appliances and furniture which the company blamed on the decline in sales, according to CNBC.

Trevor Sumner — CEO of Perch, a leading company in store product engagement —spoke to RETHINK Retail about the prospects of JCPenney’s new private label and outdoor stores in turning the company around. He was not very optimistic about JCPenney’s turnaround.

“I just don’t see how JCPenney works their way out of this,” Sumner said. “They’re at high risk of defaulting on their billion and a half loan balance. And now it’s hard for me to see that.”

Although, Sumner suggested that the idea of starting a private label is a good strategy, he didn’t think JCPenney did a bold enough move to reverse their decline.

“I just think it’s too late, I think you need something like this across the entire store,” Sumner said. “And they’re just not capitalized to make massive enough changes to truly change their brand image.”

Carol Spieckerman, RETHINK Retail advisor and president of Spieckerman Retail, was cautiously optimistic about their success.

“I think it checks a lot of boxes, it’s very relevant for the times, it’s a good move for Penney’s, which is not to say that it’s going to necessarily save the day,” Spieckerman said.

On the other hand, Spieckerman said the focus should not necessarily be on whether this move would save JCPenney or not, but that it was important to look at other aspects of it.

“For one thing, this is JCPenney really putting a stake in the ground on an emerging category,” Spieckerman said. “I think outdoor crossover is definitely there. And I don’t think JCPenney has any delusions about beating a lot of outdoor retailers at their own game.”