JC Penney focused on winning sales from teens

14/04/2008 - 17:48

NEW YORK (Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc is adding new brands and updating the look of its junior's and young men's departments as the mid-tier department store operator tries to win sales from teenagers during the upcoming back-to-school shopping season.

Penney said on Monday it will launch a new private brand, called Decree, for teenage girls and young women, while it will introduce two new brands, American Living for Young Men and Whitetag, in its young men's department.

"Teens have always been a cornerstone of our business, and they are emerging as today's key influencers of purchase decisions made by their family," Ken Hicks, president and chief merchandising officer, said in a statement.

Given the increasing importance of this segment, he said Penney was adding the brands to meet teenagers' diverse tastes.

The announcement comes one day before Penney is scheduled to hold its annual meeting with Wall Street analysts and provide an update on its business, which is faltering as shoppers reduce spending in the wake of the economic slowdown.

Penney's sales at stores open at least a year, a key retail gauge known as same-store sales, have fallen in every month since November, when it posted a gain of 2.6 percent. It has forecast another decline for April same-store sales.

The back-to-school shopping season could be a crucial one as struggling U.S. retailers looking to boost sales, and attract shoppers with extra cash in their hands from tax rebate checks.

Penney said the Decree brand will offer "sophisticated apparel, accessories and footwear," with a heavy emphasis on denim. The items will range from $18 for a tank top to $38 for a pair of 5-pocket jeans to $85 for outerwear.

American Living for Young Men is a brand developed exclusively for Penney by Polo Ralph Lauren Corp's Global Brand Concepts division. It will feature denim, polo shirts, and T-shirts, while Whitetag, a national brand, is described as an "urban rock" inspired collection.

Penney also said it is adding new fixtures and graphic images to its juniors and young men's departments.

It said that in its new, "off-mall" stores, or stores being built away from malls, there will be newly designed dressing rooms with flat screen televisions and sitting areas.

(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe/Andre Grenon)

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