JC Penney exits appliances again

Troubled retailer will focus on apparel and home furnishings instead

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JC Penney is exiting appliances.
JC Penney is exiting appliances. Credit: Saul Martinez/Bloomberg

The whirlwind romance of JC Penney and the appliance business feels like a washing machine in the spin cycle. Three years after announcing it was re-entering the category, selling kitchen and laundry appliances, the Plano, Texas-based department store chain is exiting the business, a company spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.

The decision, effective Feb. 28, was made "to better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance and drive profitable growth," the retailer wrote in a blogpost. In addition, JC Penney is also pulling back on furniture, which will only be available online and in some Puerto Rico stores. The company plans to reconfigure existing stores to focus on core strengths of apparel and home furnishings, which are higher-margin, the blogpost read.

It's the latest decision by new CEO Jill Soltau, who joined JC Penney from Joann Fabrics late last year. JC Penney used to sell appliances several decades ago, but took a 30-year break before resuming in 2016, under the helm of then-CEO Marvin Ellison, a Home Depot veteran who left Penney for the top job at Lowe's last year. Last month, Penney announced that Chief Marketing Officer Marci Grebstein, with the brand just two years, would be pursuing "other opportunities." Grebstein's last day was earlier this month. At the same time, the retailer said it is searching for a chief customer officer, who will lead all of marketing.

Penney, which spent $280 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2017, had focused on appliances in some of its marketing, particularly in 2016 after it re-entered the category. In fact, JC Penney's first work from then-agency-of-record McGarryBowen was a spot starring a washing machine.

The company now works with Badger & Winters, which worked on the brand's holiday campaign.

But gaining ground with consumers in a competitive retail environment has been a struggle. Over the crucial holiday selling period, Penney reported a same-store sales drop of 3.5 percent on an adjusted basis.

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