New State

Teen in­flu­encers and twins Brook­lyn and Bailey McKnight have be­come Ari­zona “brand am­bas­sadors.”

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY DAVID MOIN

J.C. Pen­ney is re­fin­ing its $1 bil­lion Ari­zona brand af­ter feed­back from teen fo­cus groups.

As Ari­zona goes, so goes J.C. Pen­ney.

The de­part­ment store chain has re­cast its 19-year-old Ari­zona pri­vate brand with changes in the styling, mar­ket­ing, in-store dis­plays and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment cy­cle, in an ef­fort to re­verse weak sales trends and ride what's ex­pected to be a good back-toschool sea­son for re­tail­ing over­all.

“Frankly, over the years we sat on our lau­rels with Ari­zona. It got too ba­sic and lost touch with the teen cus­tomers,” James Starke, Pen­ney's se­nior vice pres­i­dent and head of mer­chan­dis­ing for men's, chil­dren's, home and jew­elry, told WWD.

“The last time we did any­thing sig­nif­i­cant was when we launched shops in 2012,” Starke added. Ari­zona is Pen­ney's largest vol­ume brand, do­ing al­most $1 bil­lion in rev­enue. “It spans from kids to teenage boys and girls. It's grounded in denim, but there are also fash­ion ac­ces­sories, hand­bags, footwear, out­er­wear, sportswear. It's a huge brand. It was time for a com­pre­hen­sive head-to-toe relook at the brand. In­ter­nally, we call it a ‘remix,'” he said.

Pen­ney's has tapped twin sis­ters and teen in­flu­encers Brook­lyn and Bailey McKnight as Ari­zona “brand am­bas­sadors” to reach teens and Gen Z cus­tomers. They will be ap­pear­ing at se­lect Pen­ney's stores be­gin­ning in late July; life-size cutouts of the twins and signs show­ing their fa­vorite pieces from the col­lec­tion are in Pen­ney's stores, and on their YouTube chan­nel, the twins will show off two cus­tom-de­signed back­packs with Ari­zona and Sephora prod­ucts.

“We're just av­er­age girls, like all of our fol­low­ers, so part­ner­ing with J.C. Pen­ney on Ari­zona, a brand that has some­thing for ev­ery­one, was such an au­then­tic fit,” the twins said. As brand am­bas­sadors, the twins have made a big­ger com­mit­ment to Pen­ney's, af­ter col­lab­o­rat­ing with the de­part­ment store in the past to pro­mote Ari­zona's char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions and par­tic­i­pat­ing in Pen­ney's “Jac­ques Penne” hol­i­day pop-up shop with pri­vate and ex­clu­sive brands in SoHo in Man­hat­tan last year.

Among the changes to Ari­zona, the prod­uct de­vel­op­ment cy­cle time has been re­duced to 26 weeks for the bulk of the mer­chan­dise, or about 10 weeks less than the stan­dard. The Ari­zona in-store shops have been re­set to call out trends, such as color block­ing and dis­tressed jeans, and high­light out­fits with pho­tos of mod­els in a va­ri­ety of shapes and sizes. Also, Ari­zona shops were re-mer­chan­dised for shop­ping across cat­e­gories so it's eas­ier for teens to pull out­fits to­gether, with tops, jeans, shoes, hand­bags, ac­ces­sories and fash­ion jew­elry in one lo­ca­tion. Items get­ting a big­ger play in­clude flex jeans for four-way stretch, high­waist jeans, re­laxed V-neck T-shirts, and clean denim skirts. Screen print T-shirts and sweat­shirts have been cur­tailed and dress lengths on sev­eral styles are shorter. A new Ari­zona logo was un­veiled ear­lier this year and sep­a­rate Ari­zona In­sta­gram and YouTube chan­nels were started to strengthen ties to teens.

“One in three J.C. Pen­ney cus­tomers buy Ari­zona, mak­ing it our largest pri­vate brand,” said Jodie John­son, se­nior vice pres­i­dent and head of mer­chan­dis­ing for women's, beauty and fam­ily footwear. “We're re­ally em­pha­siz­ing the teen shop­per in this brand re­fresh be­cause we know that once the teen em­braces Ari­zona, her younger sib­lings — and mom — will fol­low.”

Changes were based on re­search with teen fo­cus groups, 13 since last fall. Par­tic­i­pants were asked such ques­tions as where they find in­spi­ra­tion for style, how of­ten they shop, and what changes would they like to see in Pen­ney's juniors and young men's ar­eas.

“We started down this process a year ago,” Starke said, with Pen­ney's gath­er­ing in­sights on sil­hou­ettes, fab­rics, de­tails and Pen­ney's shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. The Ari­zona team in­cludes 35 de­sign­ers, tex­tile de­sign­ers and tech­ni­cal de­sign­ers for women's, men's and kids cat­e­gories. Back-toschool sets land in all stores on Fri­day, and the mar­ket­ing ramps up later this month through Au­gust.

Pen­ney's hopes that a more en­tic­ing Ari­zona will have a much-needed spillover ef­fect through­out the store. In the first quar­ter of this year, Pen­ney's ex­pe­ri­enced a sales de­cline of 4.3 per­cent to $2.58 bil­lion and a comp sales gain of just 0.2 per­cent, while com­peti­tors such as Macy's and Kohl's are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sales growth and signs of bet­ter re­bounds. Pen­ney's vol­ume has been mired in the $12 bil­lion range and the out­look is com­pli­cated by the com­pany op­er­at­ing with­out a chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer since the de­par­ture of Marvin El­li­son in May.

How­ever, the Ari­zona over­haul isn't Pen­ney's only ma­neu­ver for back-to-school. Fa­nat­ics in-store shops sell­ing li­censed sports mer­chan­dise are be­ing rolled out, with 650 in place by Au­gust. In ad­di­tion, Pen­ney's has been pump­ing up na­tional brands, par­tic­u­larly Levi's, Nike and Adi­das, as well as Ari­zona's spe­cial sizes in­clud­ing husky boy and girls plus sizes.

The back-to-school sea­son, noted Starke, “re­ally does set the tone for the third quar­ter and back half of the year.”

“The most im­por­tant thing we did was start a con­ver­sa­tion with teen cus­tomers,” said Val Har­ris, Pen­ney's se­nior vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and de­sign.

“If we win with Ari­zona, J.C. Pen­ney wins.”

J.C. Pen­ney’s Ari­zona shop.

Brook­lyn and Bailey McKnight

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.