JCPenney’s launch next week of the Polo Ralph Lauren-inspired American Living brand is set to receive the biggest marketing push in the company’s history.
The launch includes dedicated catalogs and a microsite in addition to the usual complement of national TV and print ads.
“American Living gives customers a way to have something truly aspirational at a smart price,” said Kate Parkhouse, PR manager, brand at JCPenney.
“Bringing brands like American Living into JCPenney’s merchandise assortment is a key part of the company’s strategy and provides a new reason for customers to discover all that JCPenney has to offer,” she continued. “Something on the scale of American Living really has the opportunity to elevate the overall JCPenney brand.”
At a time that many retailers are reporting declining sales and cutbacks in the face of a faltering economy, JCPenney is hoping American Living can help build some excitement around shopping at the multichannel merchant.
Last month, JCPenney said that it would cut jobs, close a call center and combine merchandising and marketing functions for its retail and direct businesses, moves that the retailer said it had planned before the current economic slowdown.
The retailer’s latest financial results showed a fourth-quarter decline in same-store sales of 3.6%, while total sales fell 4%. Financial analysts had predicted a greater loss margin. Total sales for the four-week period fell 17% to $1.16 billion from $1.39 billion during the same period last year. Same-store sales fell 1.1% and total sales were nearly flat at $19.86 billion, from $19.9 billion last year.
American Living was developed with Polo Ralph Lauren’s Global Brand Concepts division for the largest segment of JCPenney’s customer base, the classic traditional lifestyle customer. As the main focus of JCPenney’s spring marketing campaign, American Living will be featured in ads during the Academy Awards on February 24.
Hispanic customers are the first wave of consumers to be targeted with the new brand. They will see a preview beginning February 21 in ads appearing on Univision. Print ads in top consumer magazines will follow in March.
Photographer and filmmaker Bruce Webber directed the TV ads, which include a 60-second anthem spot featuring the tagline “JCPenney is American Living for family and home.”
This spot will run on major networks as well as during previews for PG and PG-13 movies in US cinemas. There are also 30-second spots that will feature men’s, women’s and home merchandise from the collection.
Radio buys feature former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and country-bluegrass star Alison Krauss with the song “Killing the Blues” from their new album, Raising Sand.
Direct support includes a microsite at http://www.americanliving.com/ that goes live February 19. The microsite’s URL will be promoted through direct mail efforts, weekly circulars, on shopping bags and in an ad for the brand that will appear in JCPenney’s big spring catalog. An American Living tab will also be added to the JCP.com site.
Online banner ads on consumer sites such as Oprah.com and InStyle.com, and search engine marketing will also support the launch.
An American Living catalog will arrive in JCPenney customers’ homes on February 24. It will be followed throughout the year by American Living catalogs dedicated to specific categories, such as home, men’s, women’s and children’s. A total of 12 American Living catalogs are planned for this year.
The push also includes a February 24 American Living circular in newspapers reaching 50 million homes.
At each store, customers will be greeted by store associates wearing red American Living polos, given branded American Living shopping bags and be able to view the American Living broadcast commercials on the screens of the stores’ customer-facing, point-of-sale terminals.
Because all point-of-sale registers are able to access jcp.com, each JCPenney store has access to American Living merchandise, even those stores that don’t carry the full American Living assortment, according to the company.
Plans for an exclusive deal with Ralph Lauren were announced last year. The strategy of partnering with other well-known, higher-end brands follows a trend. In Spring 2007, JCPenney introduced an exclusive deal with beauty retailer Sephora for contained shops within JCPenney stores. Sephora has built a presence in 50 JCPenney stores over the past year.
Next week, three JCPenney stores — Glendale, CA; Paramus, NJ and Montrose, CO — will launch similar designated “store-within-a-store” presentations for American Living.
Distinctive white, wooden fixtures will be set up to spotlight the merchandise in stores. Starting in March, new stores will feature American Living merchandise in a similar in-store presentation.
Last year, the company said its private-label strategy was paying off. The company reports that private label brands and exclusive designer labels represent about half of its business.
In addition, the retailer said its eight “power brands” generate 80% of private-label sales: Ambrielle, Arizona, A.N.A., Chris Madden for the JCPenney Home Collection, Cooks, St. John’s Bay, Stafford and Worthington.