JCPenney targets millennials with new private brand.

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One of the major components of JCPenney’s transformation strategy is getting a boost this week when the retailer launches its new Belle + Sky collection aimed at millennials.

According to JCPenney, Belle + Sky was created with the millennial woman in mind. The collection was piloted in select stores and on jcp.com last fall and will soon be available in 500 stores starting Feb. 12. Additionally, the company says it will begin introducing a center core layout in over one-third of JCPenney stores this spring. This new layout will transform the areas of fashion jewelry, accessories, footwear and handbags into a vibrant shopping environment that complements Sephora inside JCPenney and the Fine Jewelry Store, the retailer says.

“Belle + Sky is going to resonate with a diverse group of women in their 20s and 30s who are style conscious, digitally connected and are quick to emulate their outfits based on what they`re seeing on various social media channels,” said Siiri Dougherty, senior vice president of women`s apparel at JCPenney. “Millennials spend approximately $600 billion a year*, and therefore we know that she`s willing to invest in brands that reflect who she is and how she lives. With its trendy designs, lifestyle versatility and great value, we believe Belle + Sky will capture her attention and win her loyalty.”

These strategic initiatives reinforce the company`s focus on creating some of the industry`s leading private brands and giving customers more reasons to shop JCPenney.

JCPenney also says it plans to engage this digitally connected shopper by using an omnichannel approach to marketing Belle + Sky. The company will leverage popular social media channels and offer the new generation of millennial women meaningful wardrobe solutions that reflect her personality and busy lifestyle. This includes partnering with popular bloggers and fashion influencers to help showcase the style and versatility of the Belle + Sky brand.

Belle + Sky is the company`s first contemporary private brand infused with new designs throughout the season, giving shoppers faster access to runway-inspired looks. It complements an existing assortment of exclusive modern brands including nicole by Nicole Miller® and Bisou Bisou®.

Last year, a new center core environment was piloted in select JCPenney stores to promote greater cross shopping between fashion and fine jewelry, shoes, handbags and beauty. Given the pilot`s success, the company is bringing this new presentation to select stores starting in April.

“As we continue to expand our center core concept to more stores, customers will discover compelling displays that bring accessories to life in a meaningful and dynamic way,” said Jodie Johnson, senior vice president of footwear and handbags at JCPenney. Each piece in our collection of brands has been thoughtfully curated and displayed to ensure that she can discover various ways to update her wardrobe and take her style to the next level.”

The company currently operates approximately 1,020 stores and jcpenney.com.

J.C. Penney overcomes warm weather with omnichannel.

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Less than 12 hours after Macy’s shared bleak holiday results, J.C. Penney said enhanced digital capabilities helped it to produce strong holiday season same store sales growth which allowed the company to reaffirm its full year profit forecast.

J.C. Penney said same store sales for November and December increased 3.9% on top of a prior year increase of 3.7% and confirmed that it would achieve earlier financial targets of $645 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and generate positive free cash flow. Barring a major fall off in January sales, the 3.9% increase through November and December has J.C. Penney well positioned to achieve its full year outlook which called for same store sales growth of 4% to 5%, considering comps during the first, second and third quarters increased 3.4%, 4.1% and 6.4%, respectively.

“Despite unprecedented warm weather that significantly affected apparel sales across the company, our focus on private brands, enhanced omnichannel execution and compelling gift giving selection resulted in strong holiday sales,” said J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison. “I am especially pleased with the accelerated comp sales improvement from November to December, including record online sales for the company during the holiday season.”

J.C. Penney’s affirmation that it will achieve performance targets shared early in the year is not remarkable on the surface. However, the results take on greater significance when viewed against a backdrop in which record warm temperatures throughout the holiday season cast considerable doubt about other retailers’ ability to achieve sales targets. Also making J.C. Penney’s performance noteworthy is that it comes on the heels of hugely disappointing news from Macy’s. The day before J.C. Penney’s announcement on Jan. 7, Macy’s said its November and December same store sales declined 4.7%, worse than earlier guidance which called for a decline of 2% to 3%, and lowered its full year profit forecast.

J.C. Penney can breathe a sigh of relief that it appears to have weathered the holiday season better than others, but Ellison noted the company’s transformation remains a work in progress as it looks to build on omnichannel progress evident during the holidays.

“Although we have much work to do, our strengthened omnichannel capabilities enabled our supply chain network to process millions of jcp.com orders this season, supported by 250 stores across the country that helped fulfill online orders using in-store inventory,” Ellison said. “With this level of selection, we saw more online customers take advantage of our in-store pick up option available at over 1,000 JCPenney stores nationwide. We look forward to capitalizing on this digital progress through 2016.”

The company will report its fourth quarter and fiscal 2015 results on Feb. 26.