J.C. Penney: Out With the New, In With the Old

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JCP Executive Shake-up - Getty Images
Getty ImagesJ.C. Penney vice president of brand, design & trend Nick Wooster (left) reportedly will be replaced by his predecessor, Ken Mangone.
J.C. Penney has canned another executive and replaced him with a member of the old guard. And the latest management shakeup could spell the end of the retailer's style revolution.

Earlier this month, CEO Ron Johnson was replaced by his predecessor, Myron Ullman. Now the man he appointed to overhaul the retailer's apparel collections, Nick Wooster, has also been given the boot and will reportedly be replaced by his own predecessor.

The New York Post reports that the menswear style icon has been fired as executive vice president of private brands, a position he has held since last April. As with Johnson, he will be replaced by the man who used to occupy his office -- in this case Ken Mangone, who left the company when Johnson first took over.

With Johnson and Wooster's departures, we may be seeing the beginning of the end for J.C. Penney's attempt to remake its image.

Under the two executives, it wasn't just coupons that disappeared: Loyal customers also saw the inexpensive, "basic" clothing collections disappear from shelves, to be replaced by stylish jeans bars and boutiques from brands like Joe Fresh. Dozens of disaffected shoppers told us that the new clothes, clearly directed at a younger generation, had driven them to take their business to competitors like Kohl's and Macy's.

Shortly before Johnson got the boot, J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) CFO Ken Hannah acknowledged the apparel disconnect, and said that older brands like St. John's Bay would soon make a comeback. Now that Wooster has been ousted as creative director, don't be shocked if that concession becomes a full-blown retreat. That might please some older customers, but it's tough news for the younger, style-conscious shoppers who had started to discover that J.C. Penney was transforming itself into a source of inexpensive, stylish clothing.

And investors don't seem too impressed, either: While the share price spiked on the news that Johnson was on his way out, it quickly dipped again when it was revealed that the old boss would be coming back. As bad as things were under Johnson, it's easy to forget that the company wasn't exactly thriving under old management. Bringing back the old guard and rolling back the big changes might right the ship temporarily, but in the long term it does nothing to address the company's underlying issues.

We don't know for sure that Mangone will completely reverse Wooster and Johnson's apparel strategy. But if you were thinking of heading down to J.C. Penney to check out the new styles, you might want to do so before it's too late.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.


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41 Comments

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Claire

Hey Ken, thats the ugliest tie on the planet. Call up Wooster for some fashion advice.

April 20 2013 at 1:44 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
omgnojobs

OMG ! we cant believe it that it was an illegal immigrant muslim terrorist that bombed america "once again" now in our own country ,like the 1 in our white house ~~DEPORT "ALL" ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS THAT OBAMY LET "BREAK" INTO AMERICA. !~

April 19 2013 at 8:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
vnad4

do young teenagers really shop at jcp now because of the new merchandise? I rarely see young people shopping there. I would think it woud be the last place they would consider going. I will agree that the clothes are cheap and geared to that age group. I would like to see St Johns Bay and American Living brands make a comeback. They were quality made clothes.

April 19 2013 at 8:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vnad4's comment
Claire

It was the last place I went until I read an article that Nick Wooster was the new fashion guy in charge and I love the man! He really knows fashion more than any man on this planet. I'm sure more young people would have gone in their if they marketing the new changes better.. JCP needed to get rid of the old for a reason first time around. Keep the new and the old.. why can't it be a happy medium. This seems like a disaster waiting to happen... especially with this Ken guy.. what an awful tie he's wearing

April 20 2013 at 1:47 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
brownidmom3

Maybe I'm missing something here, but here is a novel idea.....how about bringing back the old favorites, AND keeping the new "jean bars" for the younger crew? This article makes it sound like now JCP will be losing it's "new hip younger crowd" because it's going to bring back the old favorites. Cut the store down the middle and make one side "hip" and the other side "traditional" and let it go!

April 19 2013 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
donovansdanes

What consumers look for are reasonable prices, good quality merchandise, variety and a good sale every now and then.

Sometimes its better to leave well enough alone as opposed to making drastic changes.

I wish the very best for JCP. I was and have been a loyal JCP customer for over 40 years until all the new changes were implemented. The changes didn't appeal to me.

April 19 2013 at 7:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to donovansdanes's comment
Claire

Consumers in 2013 look for fashion and prices.

April 20 2013 at 1:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Dennis

Why can't they have BOTH styles? Trendy for the younger set and the staple standbys for the older clientel. I'm not a marketing genius but common sense tells me it just might be better than one or the other....

April 19 2013 at 5:22 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
phunywun

JCP you knew over a year ago Ron was a failure. You waited too long to replace him while he drove the store right into the ground. Who at JCP suggested this guy Johnson for the job to begin with? I hope they were also let go. I'm sure one idiot suggested him but it took a few other idiots to approve him

April 19 2013 at 2:22 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
warturtlex

Dawn same here I paid off my Card with the cut it up and returned it to them

April 18 2013 at 11:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dawn

I used to shop at JC Penney all the time but since they've changed I've moved on to Macy's. It will take a lot to get me back.

April 18 2013 at 11:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
makeupphd

how about a balance between the old classics and the newer arrivals? i think the stores look great these days...bright and well merchandised.

April 18 2013 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply