Mall-within-a-mall strategy of JCPenney

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, February 24, 2013

Todd Ganos of Forbes writing about the new store format J.C. Penney is rolling out, the one of multiple stores within JCP store.

If one walks into most any big-name retailer – Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc. – you will typically find the beauty products on the entry level. Whether it is Chanel or Lancome or some other brand, each product maker is “showcased” at its own counter. It turns out that the retailer sub-lets the space to the product maker and the counter is actually staffed by an employee of the product maker, not the retailer. In essence, each of these beauty product counters is a store within a store.

As was mentioned above, the concept of a store within a store has been around for years. The difference for J.C. Penney is that Mr. Johnson is extending the concept to the entire range of products from clothing to bath to housewares. In doing so, one might argue that the retailer has become no more than an operator of real estate . . . simply sub-letting to others. In one sense, this is probably true. Alternatively, there might be a value-add in the way this is accomplished.

Todd cites two reasons why this would be successful, one - staging’s effect of the stores inside JCP on the customer’s experience and two - potential operational benefits as these stores are staffed by product makers themselves lowering overheads for JCP.

As Todd mentions, this is nothing new, we have seen this with the cosmetics counters and space dedicated to known designers. Where it gets confusing is that by doing this, JCP stands to lose its soul to the product makers it harvests. There is no single view of JCP, every product maker designs its store independently. The independently hired staff, if not trained on JCP's core values, speak differently leading to confused buyers. These re-arrangements while a sound strategy in some countries may fall short when it comes to depth of authentic JCP as we have known it.