November 11, 2010, 12:09 PM

J.C. Penney’s e-commerce push

The retail chain will expand its online apparel offerings for men and women.

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J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is launching a digital business push aimed at capitalizing on new opportunities in e-commerce and reaching out to apparel shoppers who like to converse on Facebook and other social media sites.

This morning, J.C. Penney, No. 16 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, announced the creation of its growth brands division. The retailer will keep the new division separate from J.C. Penney’s core brand. The new division, though, will leverage the company’s infrastructure, including e-commerce, to create online and store sales opportunities, the retailer says.

The first task for the growth brands division is to launch a pair of projects called Clad and GiftingGrace.com.

Clad, scheduled for its debut next summer with Hearst magazines, will feature new lines of menswear aimed at male shoppers ages 25 to 54, along with related fashion content. J.C. Penney has not said if it will develop a stand-alone web store and Facebook.com page for Clad, but the initiative will be headed by division president Will Swillie. Prior to his appointment as Clad president, Swillie worked at Retail Convergence, which owns a portfolio of e-commerce businesses including RueLaLa.com, No. 103 in the Top 500 Guide, and SmartBargains.com.

Another new initiative—GiftingGrace.com—will be an online shopping destination for women ages 30 to 54 and will feature unique gift items and related content and shopping tools. Heading up GiftingGrace.com as president is Mary Drolet, the founder of Club Libby Lu, a retail chain and e-commerce site for pre-teen girls ages five through 12.

Both Swillie and Drolet will report to Anne Sutherland Fuchs, J.C. Penney’s new group president, growth brands division and digital initiatives. Prior to Penney, Fuchs, who will report to J.C. Penney CEO Myron Ullman, worked as a retail and information technology consultant and as a former senior vice president and group publisher in charge of Hearst’s women’s magazines.

“Our objective through this new division is to capitalize on our extraordinary retail expertise to strategically pursue untapped opportunities to serve key customer segments,” says Ullman. “Our aim is to generate new revenue streams consistent with our long range mission of being the growth leader in the retail industry.”

J.C. Penney sees new digital initiatives as a big part of its plan to increase web sales by $1 billion annually within five years. These days, J.C. Penney’s most coveted online customers are technology-savvy younger women and men. And to reach them J.C. Penney has concluded it needs to rely less on traditional marketing and advertising and more on emerging social media, the company says.

“We look forward to aggressively pursuing these and other opportunities and providing consumers with innovative new shopping experiences that reflect the exceptional operational resources that our company can bring to bear,” says Ullman.

 

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