• Jennifer Marks

JCPenney discusses the new way forward in merchandising

Merchants to employ art and science in product selection

JCPenney Plano, Texas – Having eliminated its chief merchant position earlier this month, JCPenney plans to become a more nimble merchandiser.

“We’re competing against e-commerce companies that don’t have chief merchants – don’t even have category merchants. They’re just moving fast with data,” chairman and ceo Marvin Ellison told analysts during Penney’s Q3 conference call on Nov. 10.

JCPenney’s new structure weds the art of merchandising with the science of analytics, he added.

Pricing decisions have been centralized. Every sku is now assigned to one of three buckets – traffic drivers, core items and impulse items – with pricing strategies crafted for each category. “I think we’ll see the benefit of this strategic work beginning in the fourth quarter,” said Ellison.

He asserted that merchants have relied too much on instinct, looking at what worked previously and making price decisions to hit a margin target. Merchant expertise remains important, but will be backed by real-time customer data.

“We’re going to have merchants closer to the customer, closer to the sales floor, understanding what changes need to be made,” he said.

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