May 3, 2006, 12:00 AM

It’s all inside for the web at J.C Penney stores

J.C. Penney is equipping its stores with a web-enabled point-of-sale system and taking other steps to integrate the web into store operations. The web also will soon surpass catalogs as J.C. Penney’s biggest direct sales channel.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is equipping 1,000 of its stores with 35,000 web-enabled point-of-sale devices and taking other steps to integrate the Internet into its store operations.

The web-enabled POS system will be installed by the end of the year and allow store employees to access all of the inventory on, No. 11 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites. J.C. Penney also is testing a new concept in at least one store.

The test involves placing web-enabled computers and large flat screen monitors in high traffic store areas such as the children’s department. If the customer is looking for a particular bedding set or matching accessories and can’t find a particular item or style, she can use the computer station to click on and see the available inventory in all colors and sizes, says John Irvin, president of JCPDirect, the company’s Internet and catalog division.

“The web-enabled POS devices aren’t the end game,” Irvin says. J.C. Penney is making the hub of its multi-channel program, he says. For instance, the POS system can be used by store associates to help customers find and order merchandise from any channel and generate more cross-selling opportunities. “If a customer is buying maternity clothes, we can ask them if they need a crib, show them right at the terminal what’s available by clicking on and see if they are ready to make a purchase,” Irvin says.

J.C. Penney, which began selling online in 1994, registered just over one $1 billion in annual web sales in 2005. By the end of 2006, the web is expected to surpass catalogs as J.C. Penney’s biggest direct sales channel, Irvin says.

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