a penney for your thoughts

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J.C. Penney CEO Mike Ullman wants to get inside of consumers' minds

BUSINESSWEEK-J.C. Penney Co. is working to reinvigorate the middle-market department store sector by launching a.n.a., a proprietary women's clothing line, a move reflective of its philosophy: "Penney is sharpening its understanding of its customers' needs and borrowing branding practices more familiar to a consumer-products maker like Procter & Gamble Co. than a 103-year-old retail chain. The steps are aimed at erasing Penney's image as 'your mother's store' and making Penney brands resonate with the shopper."

CEO Myron "Mike" Ullman's branding strategy is central to the growth plan. "Forty percent of Penney's sales are of private label brands ... [and] while such brands can make a retailer more distinctive and offer high margins, Ullman believes they serve no purpose unless they appeal to shoppers emotionally like strong national brands such as Nike." So, he says, the company looks at its brands as labels, and has divided shoppers into four "fashion taste levels," and targets them accordingly. It's a strategy that could help them catch up to big rival Kohl's.

"Penney: Back in Fashion," BusinessWeek, Jan. 9, 2006

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