On Thursday, JCPenney relaunched one of its private-label brands. ANA, which stands for A New Approach. ANA started as a casual line but will now carry redesigned denim focused on fit and extended sizes, along with other causal apparel. The company has been redeveloping the brand over the last year.
JCPenney’s investment in private label comes at a time when many other traditional retailers are looking to ramp up their owned brands. Target and Walmart have both been dropping multiple new brands a year. Target just launched activewear line All in Motion in January, while Walmart resurrected Scoop late last year. Kohl’s has been upping its exclusive partnerships, nabbing Elizabeth and James in April. Across the board, retailers are hunting for new exclusive partners or launching their own lines to drive customers to shop in-store or online.
“Every retailer is really trying to figure out where to differentiate the relationship they have with the customer, which was traditionally built on location and store traffic. The best way to do that has been private label,” said Matt Sargent, svp of retail at retail consulting firm Magid.
For JCPenney, the focus on denim is a play to put the customer first and, as a result, drive sales. In JCPenney’s third-quarter earnings, the company reported that total net sales in the third quarter decreased about 10% year over year, from $2.65 billion to $2.38 billion. Comparable store sales dropped 9.3% in the same quarter. The retailer closed about 24 stores in 2019 and plans to close an additional six as of January.
JCPenney already has a pretty sizable assortment of private-label brands, including Liz Claiborne, St. John’s Bay, Arizona and Worthington. The company does not break out private-label sales. The last owned apparel brand to launch was Ambrielle, a lingerie line, that debuted in 2007. In addition to private label, JCPenney also carries household names including Adidas, Levi’s, Champion, Nike and Dickies.
What the company seems to be lacking is newness. ANA’s new denim offering is now its most size-inclusive offering yet (covering size 2 to 30) and includes 15 fits (from flare to wide leg) and over 80 washes — the retailer’s most extensive private-label denim collection to date. The average price for the denim is about $39.
“Our merchant teams have spent the past year carefully reviewing our private brand offerings, working to better understand what our customers want and to define what our brands offer. During our research, it became clear that many of our customers don’t think of JCPenney as a place for casual or denim apparel,” said Michelle Wlazlo, evp and chief merchandising officer at JCPenney. Prior to joining JCPenney in March, Wlazlo served as vp of apparel and accessories merchandising at Target.
After hearing feedback from customers in stores and online about the desire for a casual denim line, JCPenney met with over 100 customers, who were chosen by the merchandising team, as well as company associates in Dallas and Los Angeles. The started developing the concept for the denim collection and nailing down the different styles and sizing.
ANA fits into a larger merchandising strategy that the retailer launched in November, along with a reimagined store concept.
“We now categorize merchandise by customer lifestyles, which are: move, chill, on point, all day and shine. This re-launch positions ANA as the foundation of the All Day lifestyle, and we ensured these jeans are comfortable and soft enough to wear all day,” said Wlazlo. “Our confidence is back in all the product we’re delivering right now, and it will stay that way as long as we stay maniacally focused on our customers. Ultimately, quality product that has a purpose for being will always resonate with shoppers,” she said.
JCPenney is promoting the denim line across all channels, including in in-store graphics and visual merchandising, on social media and through influencer partnerships.