JC Penney’s Ullman Scores Another Win With American Living by Ralph Lauren


Penney and Polo Ralph Lauren Launch Exclusive Line  – 2/12/08


J.C. Penney is getting ready to kick off the biggest exclusive brand launch in its history on Feb. 24 with the American Living line from Polo Ralph Lauren.

The line, which will only be sold by Penney, is initially being introduced to consumers in the chain’s women’s, men’s, children’s, home and luggage departments in stores and online. Eventually the American Living line and its flag and eagle logo will have items in every one of Penney’s 40 departments.

Penney’s move is a definite nod to more upscale shoppers, an approach it has taken before with lines such as Nicole by Nicole Miller, Bisou Bisou and Chris Madden. The retailer has also done well with the Sephora store-within- a-store concept.

Discussion questions: Does Penney have a hit or a miss on its hands with the American Living line from Polo Ralph Lauren? How might it affect the retailer’s image? What do you think about the timing of the launch?

My post:

The merchandise has already started arriving in the stores. I went to my local mall to check out the line and was pleased with the fit, quality, styling, and pricing.  Though the styling was unmistakably Ralph, there was nothing stating “by Ralph Lauren” on the product, the signing, the fixtures, or on the website.  This is the same strategy RL used when they decided to distribute Chaps exclusively at Kohl’s (prior to that, “Chaps by Ralph Lauren” had wide department store distribution).


In their newer and remodeled stores, JCP is doing a good job of highlighting brands like Sephora and Bisou Bisou so they stand apart from the sea of fixtures filled with more moderate fare.  However, in my local, older, un-remodeled JCP, the American Living product was smashed in among the rest of the apparel.  My biggest shock though was finding this brand new product already signed “Buy 1 get the 2nd at 50% off.”

Why would they already be discounting their “premier” brand???  Discounting the brand upon arrival was unnecessary.   They could have at least designed the promotion to be “Take advantage of introductory pricing.”


Aside from the discounting I think JCP should have a long term winner with American Living.  It is just aspirational enough for the moderate crowd and will certainly pull some moderate business from Macy’s.  I’m excited about the marketing launch (during the Academy awards).  If you haven’t already, I urge you to look at the launch video on the jcpenney.com website.


I am a big fan of CEO Mike Ullman.  He has done a masterful job converting a once-stodgy and irrelevant retailer into a successful multi-channel retail force.  American Living will be another win.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist www.OsorioGroup.com



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