JCPenney Goes For Sears’ Jugular With Expanded Home Services

With questions arising about Sears’ ability to make it through another year without borrowing even more money from its own CEO, JCPenney has been quietly expanding its business to be more like the Sears of old, selling appliances and even heating/air-conditioning systems. Today, JCP went even further in its apparent efforts to kick Sears while it’s down.

The retailer announced today that it is testing a variety of new home services in six markets around the country. In addition to the previously mentioned HVAC systems, JCP will try its hand at selling bathroom remodeling services, custom blinds and installation, whole home water solutions, and awnings, along with “easy-to-install” smart home devices.

CEO Marvin Ellison appears to make a backhanded reference to Sears’ woes, explaining that the “timing is right to re-enter home services in order to acquire available market share and differentiate our business from our traditional competitors and pure e-commerce retailers.”

So why is JCP taking a gamble on these home services? According to Ellison, it’s really not that risky of a bet.

“Home services presents a low-risk opportunity to drive sales with minimal investment in inventory and capital resources since we are partnering with the industry’s leading providers for service and installation,” he explains in his statement.

In other words, it’s not like JCP has to go out and buy a few thousand HVAC systems, or palettes of bathroom tile in every possible color, pattern, and material. The retailer will really just be acting as a storefront for its partners. The risk the company runs is if any of those partners does a bad job, as bad service would likely have the effect of reflecting poorly on JCP first, rather than the contracted partner who does the work.