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J.C. Penney Revives A.N.A. Private Brand With Size-Inclusive Denim Focus

J.C. Penney’s A.N.A. denim collection has a whole new look and size-inclusive selection, part of the department store retailer’s effort to bolster its private labels and get fashion customers back into stores.

The new look for Penney’s stems from exhaustive customer research indicating that A.N.A. best serves as the denim lifestyle brand for women in its All Day group, one of five lifestyle groups including Move, Chill, On Point and Shine. These lifestyle categories reflect what’s resonating with customers and how they want to shop, JCP said.

“With the reimagination of our A.N.A. brand to be more denim focused and friendly, we will continue to establish ourselves as the destination for casual apparel and accessories,” Michelle Wlazlo, executive vice president and chief merchant, said. “We are confident this new selection will help customers find the elusive perfect pair of jeans, in just the right size and style preference.”

Penny’s in-house product and design teams utilized customer feedback to created an assortment that includes 15 fits in more than 80 washes in the misses, petite, plus and tall categories. The 2-24W size range is now in stores and on, with a broader assortment for sizes 2-30W and tall sizing to be carried online beginning March 1.

Penny's reimagined denim line A.N.A. gives fashion customers a more inclusive size range and a better focused casual apparel brand.
Size inclusivity is a key feature of Penney’s updated women’s denim label, A.N.A. Courtesy Photo

The reimagined A.N.A. line mirrors what Macy’s plans to do with its private-brand base. And focusing on company-owned brands make sense for struggling department stores. As store exclusives, when executed effectively, high-margin private labels can give department stores a welcome boost to their balance sheets.

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JCP is exploring at other opportunities to attract a new and younger customer. The Rare Beauty makeup brand founded by celebrity Selena Gomez will be featured in Sephora shop-in-shops inside 660 Penney’s stores, for example.

Penney’s needs a couple of big wins as CEO Jill Soltau toils to transform the ailing chain. When she came aboard in 2018, she had the task of turning around a chain that predecessors had fruitlessly struggled to revive. A shift away from major appliances and in-store furniture was the first order of business. And there’s been some concern about the chain’s liquidity, although Penney’s has said it has adequate liquidity to fund its business. One bit of good news is that factors who handle receivables for vendors shipping to the retailer have remained supportive of the chain’s efforts.

On the downside, however, JCP’s holiday comparable sales were the worst of a department store group that included retail nameplates Kohl’s and Macy’s.

Penney’s said last month that comparable sales for the nine-week period ended Jan. 4 decreased 7.5 percent. Even adjusting for its exit from major appliance and in-store furniture categories, comp sales still declined 5.3 percent.

The company on Jan. 31 received notice from the New York Stock Exchange that it no longer was in compliance with NYSE’s continued listing criteria. Listed companies are required to maintain an average closing share price of at least $1.00 over a 30-day trading period. The NYSE provides non-complying firms with a grace period of six months from receipt of the notice to regain compliance with the minimum-share price requirement.

“The company intends to pursue measures to cure the share price non-compliance, including through a reverse stock split of the company’s common stock, subject to shareholder approval, if such action is necessary to cure the non-compliance,” Penney’s said.

Shares of the retailer’s common stock will continue to be listed and trade on the NYSE during the six-month period. Penney’s is in compliance with all other NYSE continued listing standard rules, the retailer said. Shares of J.C. Penney were 74 cents Wednesday afternoon.

Penney’s had been notified by the NYSE for the same listing deficiency in August. The retailer regained compliance in November.