JCPenney’s new housewares department is like a colorful oasis of hipness and color plopped in the middle of, well, a JCPenney store. Can it draw the younger and more affluent shoppers that JCPenney needs to survive, now that all of the Hitler teakettles have sold out?
The housewares department was the first that now-departed CEO Ron Johnson set out to make over. Now, comeback CEO Myron Ullman has to make the other 2/3 of the store presentable after 90% of the chain’s capital expenditures budget for the year has been spent. Good luck with that.
Apart from the litigation-riddled Martha Stewart line and the Michael Graves designs that brought us the now-infamous Hitler kettles, what does JCP have to offer? House brands. As one stock analyst explained to clients and potential investors in the chain’s comeback, “J.C. Penney is focused on getting back into this business [private-label brands], which should resonate well with core customers.” Translation: the old ladies want their St. John’s Bay sweaters on perpetual 30% markdown back, please.