Judge Warns JCPenney On Martha Stewart Products: Blame Yourself For Empty Shelves

A judge is warning JCPenney that if it ends up with empty shelves bereft of Martha Stewart-branded products, it’ll only have itself to blame. The company is in the midst of a tiff with Macy’s over which retailer is allowed to sell her homewares. Macy’s is claiming exclusive rights, but JCPenney recently went ahead and ordered products from her company anyway.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Jeffrey Oing warned JCPenney’s attorneys today that the company took a big risk ordering up a bunch of towels, cookware and other items. He said he might force the retailer to keep them off the shelves.

“That’s the risk your client took,” Oing said, according to the Associated Press. “Ultimately, you guys played it out.”

The trial is in its third week, with Macy’s arguing that JCPenney is getting in the way of its long-standing contract with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. It’s been shilling her wares since 2007, but in December 2011 JCPenney bought 16.6% of Martha Stewart Living shares and signed a deal to open up mini Martha Stewart shops in many of its stores this spring.

In addition to preventing Martha’s branded products from showing up at JCPenney stores, Macy’s doesn’t even want her company to provide designs to its rival either.

Macy’s won an injunction in July 2012 against Martha Stewart Living to prevent it from selling housewares and exclusive products at JCPenney, but then JCPenney was granted permission to open the mini shops as long as none of the exclusive items were sold there.

JCPenney seems to not really care about that stipulation and is planning on selling things that are part of Macy’s exclusive contract and selling them under the moniker “JCP Everyday.” Other non-exclusive items will be sold under the name “Martha.”

The judge isn’t saying whether or not he’ll make JCPenney pull the products, as attorneys for the company claim if it can’t sell those items it’ll be at a huge loss.

“These three companies are the fabric of America,” Oing said. “I haven’t decided what I am going to do. I’m keeping the cat in the bag.”

But is that a Martha Stewart branded bag?

JC Penney could wind up with empty shelves [Associated Press]