It’s the age of instant commentary. The news cycle has slimmed down to minutes, seconds. Everyone jumps on the last thing Michele Bachmann said about President Obama or Harry Reid said about Mitt Romney. Those commentaries burn bright at night and then, like most bonfires, cool to piles of ashes by the morning.
So everyone in our industry has had an instant comment whenever JCPenney has popped up in the news. When it hired Michael Francis from Target – great move by Penney’s. When it fired Michael Francis – worrisome move by Penney’s
The great new ad campaign generated much enthusiasm. The same-old same old in its stores generated a lot of yawns.
Like so much of our instant analysis, the criticism of Penney’s lack of in-store innovations might be premature. The retailer has committed to a $16.5 billion makeover project to remodel every one of its roughly 1100 units over the next four years.
Women’s Wear Daily got a sneak peek of the lab mock-up a week and a half ago, and so did Penney’s top 35 vendors. As WWD reported, the unveiling was at a 16,000-square-foot mock-up, inside a Penney’s store somewhere in its home Dallas area that had “been sealed off from the public with security guards protecting the entrance.” (Some of the new shop concepts have since been opened to the public in various stores.)
“It’s entirely organized by specialty shops and 100 percent staffed by specialists who are experts in products,” ceo Ron Johnson told WWD. Developing new store concepts was Johnson’s job at Apple.
The shop concept will turn the spotlight over to Penney’s national brands– like Liz Claiborne, Izod and Levi’s – as well as the retailer’s assortment of private label goods: Arizona Jeans Co., I Jeans by Buffalo and the new jcp brand. There will also be brand new Joe Fresh shops in 683 stores.
All the shops will occupy space along a wide main aisle Penney’s is calling The Street, to aid shopper traffic and navigation.
The Street will also have cafés and juice bars. What it won’t have, apparently, are cashwraps. Instead, employees with hand-held devices will roam the store to aid shoppers in self-checking out.
Much of this might look familiar. A floor full of vendor shops was the Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s model of 20 years ago. A street of shops could have been seen in Henri Bendel’s in the 1990s. All this in-store technology looks like what we’ve been hearing about at Selfridge’s in London and – yes – Apple.
If that sounds snarky, it’s not meant to be. I say “kudos” to Penney’s for investing in the future. And for showing us we should have been more patient before declaring “nothing new here.”