February 13, 2008, 12:00 AM

J.C. Penney American Living brand launch to navigate all channels

J.C. Penney’s new American Living brand launch is notable because it’s the largest such initiative to coordinate marketing and sales across all retail channels, says John Irvin, president of the direct business segment.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is about to launch its new American Living brand of traditional lifestyle clothing, accessories and home decor designed by Global Brand Concepts, a division of Polo Ralph Lauren. The rollout is touted as the company’s biggest to incorporate all retail channels and starts Feb. 19 when a microsite navigation tab on JCP.com goes live.

The brand is positioned as a top-tier product line in keeping with Penney’s good-better-best product pricing hierarchy, says John Irvin, president of the direct business segment, which includes online and catalog sales. J.C. Penney, No. 12 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, felt a classic American style product line was not well represented in its existing wares, he says, and the link-up with Global Brand Concepts was the answer.

The new brand features cable sweaters and cotton sundresses for women, button-down shirts and sport coats for men, khaki pants for boys, and polo dresses for girls. Accessories include handbags and belts, and footwear in both dress and casual styles. The home section includes five bedding collections, bath accessories, window treatments and luggage.

Since Penney hooked up with Ralph Lauren, the past year has seen a massive effort to create product lines, establish marketing strategies and build a microsite for the brand on JCP.com, Irvin tells Internet Retailer. “We’re excited because the line is new and we’re able to start at the beginning where the launch will be the most seamless for customers,” he says.

Marketing began with a teaser on JCP.com during the holiday shopping season. It will continue with an e-mail marketing campaign, television and movie theater ads, and in the spring/summer print catalogs that include a reference to the product lines. Products are scheduled to be available in stores on Feb. 24.

The new line is expected to take advantage of a web shopping feature implemented last year that enables shoppers to check their local store inventory to see if apparel in a specific size and color is in stock. New brand and any other JCP.com purchases can be ordered online and shipped to a local store or the shopper’s home.

All stores now have computers with high broadband access to the main web site that Penney’s sales associates can use to check on product styles and availability. The company is experimenting with shopper-accessible computer kiosks in some stores as well, Irvin says.

“The American Living launch offers customers the opportunity to come to the web site and if they choose to buy they can. Or they can find out more about where products are,” Irvin says. “Cross-channel marketing is going to be big, but we’re not sure yet what it will mean.”

Mike Boylson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at J.C. Penney is a keynote speaker at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 9-12 in Chicago in a session titled E-retailers dive into the mainstream: How JC Penney did it-and why.

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