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JC Penney Bets Big on Home Department

Troubled retailer JC Penney is banking on the home market to pull it through recent financial turbulence, according to a report from Women’s Wear Daily. By May, the company plans to have installed 15,000-square-foot furniture sections in over 200 stores; the department store will also be converting over 600 of their furniture departments to a “town square” or “shops-in-shop” layout, in which major home market brands will be given micro-shops within the department.

Furniture by Jonathan Adler, Terence Conran, Bodum, and Michael Graves will be among these featured shops.  Revamped home departments will also host cooking and kitchen appliance demonstrations, an addition that is consistent with the experimental, “experience”-based  philosophy of Ron Johnson, JC Penney’s CEO. The company has billed the campaign for their house and home reinvention “the world’s largest housewarming party.”

Since Johnson left Apple to become JC Penney’s CEO in 2011, the company has experienced unprecedented financial woes–a series of events which many critics attribute to mismanagement on his part–sales for Q4 were down 28.4% and revenue fell to $3.8 billion.

But Bud Konheim, president and CEO of Nicole Miller, speculated that if the US economy continues to rebound, it will revitalize the housing and home improvement sectors, and JC Penney’s focus on its home departments might become a saving grace. “The home market is coming back,” he told WWD. “Housing is rebounding.”