More mannequins, less clutter at heart of JC Penney plan

Sun Dec 2, 2012 3:57pm EST
 

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More mannequins are on the floors of J.C. Penney stores. About 40,000 more.

They are one of the most visible changes J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N: Quote) Chief Creative Officer Michael Fisher has made to try to revive the 110-year-old department store chain, whose sales plunged 26.6 percent last quarter and whose shares have tumbled more than 50 percent this year.

Penney has a plan to transform its 700 larger stores by 2015: each store will contain 100 boutiques, offering brand-name fashion and home merchandise ranging from Levi's to PVH Corp's (PVH.N: Quote) Izod to Martha Stewart.

Eight boutiques have been rolled out so far and the feedback has been good. But these chic spaces take up only a small part of a store, and about 89 percent of the floor is still the so-called "Old J.C. Penney."

That's where Fisher's new mannequins come in. The goal is to spruce up old store areas and stem the sales slide as more boutiques are introduced.

"Customers don't know what to buy. They love a mannequin that shows you how to put the outfit together," said Fisher, 55, as he gave Reuters a tour of Penney's Manhattan store last week.

"We find anything we put on a mannequin sells out."

That may sound like Retail 101 but it reflects a radical rethinking of the Penney shopping experience under CEO Ron Johnson, who joined the company from Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) in late 2011. He poached Fisher from Apple in February this year.   Continued...

 
The sign outside the J.C. Penney store is seen in Westminster, Colorado February 20, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking