November 16, 2011, 2:50 PM

J.C. Penney and Esquire collaborate on an online men’s store

It’s the latest example of e-commerce merging with editorial content.

Lead Photo

The new site features editorial content from a popular men's magazine alongside merchandise.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and men’s magazine Esquire have joined forces to launch Cladmen.com, an e-commerce site geared toward fashionable men who need style guidance when shopping for clothes. It’s the latest example of e-commerce merging with editorial content.

Following a year of market research, Penney’s Growth Brand Division determined the area of opportunity to grow revenue online was in men’s apparel, says Cladmen’s vice president of marketing Amber Benson. “The Growth Brand Division was looking for an opportunity to leverage Penney’s knowledge of retailing and e-commerce infrastructure, and they saw a unique need in the market,” Benson says.

Aimed at men ages 25 to 54, Cladmen sells apparel, accessories and grooming tools; the retailer says the average price of items on the site is $185. The retailer is collaborating with Esquire on the venture to deliver what it calls editorial commerce.

Shoppers on Cladmen.com, which launched last week, will see Esquire Picks throughout the site, as well as a Damn Good Advice section where Esquire editors include instructional articles such as How To Tie a Bowtie. There is also a Looks section, which gives men suggestions for entire outfits with names such as First Date Flowers or At the Game. Each outfit is built with items from several brands and shoppers can purchase each item separately or buy the whole outfit at once.

Some issues of Esquire will include a 16-page Clad Report in which editors comment on outfits pulled from Cladmen merchandise.

Cladmen.com is a wholly owned subsidiary of J.C. Penney but operates as a separate entity.

J.C. Penney is following in the lead of such retailers as Macy’s Inc., Target Corp. and Gilt Groupe in combining editorial content with online retailing.

Others are also making a big push into menswear, including Gilt, which launched Park & Bond, a full-priced fashion site for men, in August.

While it has only been up and running about a week, Cladmen.com is pleased with its results thus far and credits much of its success to an aggressive pre-launch marketing campaign, Benson says. The campaign included social media marketing, the Clad report printed in September and November issues of Esquire, print ads in the magazine and on Esquire.com, and an interactive iPad advertisement within Esquire’s iPad app.

Also, in August, Esquire’s editor-in-chief sent a letter to all magazine subscribers inviting them to sign up on Cladmen.com to receive news of the launch. When the site launched last week, Benson says, Cladmen sent an e-mail to those consumers who signed up and got a warm response. “We had 24% click-through and fantastic conversions from it,” Benson says. “That tells me that the audience we were able to reach with Esquire was the right one.”

The retailer has mounted an online marketing campaign that includes paid search, feeds to comparison shopping engines and banner display ads. Cladmen is also active on social networks—it currently has around 4,000 Facebook fans and 300 Twitter followers—and plans to purchase ads on Facebook soon.

For Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, Cladmen is making its vice president of merchandising available all day on Facebook to answer questions from consumers on product recommendations and gift ideas. The retailer also plans to roll out a mobile-enhanced site early next year.

Cladmen wanted a site built on a Magento e-commerce platform and selected web site design and development firm Gorilla because of its expertise in Magento-based work, Benson says. Fluid Inc. contributed to designing the site and imc2 LLC developed Cladmen’s “Own It” digital marketing campaign.

J.C. Penney is No. 20 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide. Macy’s is No. 17, Gilt is No. 49 and Target is No. 22.

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