JCPenney is one of America’s leading retailers. It operates more than 1,000 department stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. It hosts one of the largest home furnishing and apparel sites on the Internet and boasts the nation’s largest general merchandise catalog business.
It also carries the reputation of being a top U.S. window coverings retailer offering national name brands and private and exclusive brands through its integrated retail channels. Its window coverings selections include hard and soft treatments in ready-made, made-to-measure and custom designs, although as a matter of policy it does not disclose sales by category.
Key to its retail strategy is JCPenney’s Every Day Matters positioning, which it says is intended to generate deeper, more emotionally driven relationships with customers. Specifically for window coverings, JCPenney is looking to expand its in-store Window Cover Design Center staffed with one to two design coordinators who, like all of the company’s 155,000 sales professionals, are ready to assist customers by offering encouragement, providing ideas and inspiring customers every time they shop.
In an exclusive interview with Draperies & Window Coverings, Greg Franko, who heads JCPenney’s windows/custom decorating department, tells us what this leading retailer sees ahead in the home decorating industry, where JCPenney fits into the mix and where growth lies.
D&WC: What do you see as JCPenney’s role in the window coverings industry: where does the company stand in this market segment, how did it get there?
Greg Franko: We have been in the window coverings business for more than 50 years and today JCPenney is in one of every three windows in the U.S. We are the world’s largest custom decorating provider and the only department store to offer custom decorating. Our industry leadership comes from our unparalleled combination of:
• Choices—JCPenney’s window department offers an array of private and exclusive brands such as JCPenney Home Collection, Studio, Chris Madden, American Living and Linden Street along with well known national brands such as Waverly, Graber, Levolor, Hunter Douglas, Kirsch, Bali and Croscill Classics.
• Sizes—JCPenney can fit most standard windows with ready-made window coverings. For hard-to-fit sizes, customers can bring measurements to JCPenney’s made-to-measure department or let custom decorating do the work for them.
• Styles—JCPenney features more fabrics, patterns and color choices than any other retailer (over 9,000 fabric styles as well as shades, wood blinds and verticals, shutters), along with energy saving thermals, light-blocking blackouts, safety-smart remote controls and more.
• Value—JCPenney will work within customers’ budgets to deliver them stylish and high-quality window coverings, all at a smart price. Special payment plans are available.
• Convenience—Customers can shop 24/7 from JCPenney’s Web site, jcp.com, and catalog. JCPenney offers home delivery, plus pick-up, return and exchange at any JCPenney store.
• Service—JCPenney has more than 3,000 trained in-store specialists, along with 800 custom window experts who will work with customers in their homes. Additionally, JCPenney has more than 500 in-store, design studios across the country.
What window coverings products does JCPenney sell?
JCPenney offers three window covering options:
• Ready-Made—JCPenney has an expansive selection of standard-size draperies, blinds and shades (some special sizes too), along with a complete selection of hardware… customers can take them home and hang them right away.
• Made-to-Measure—Customers can bring their window measurements to one of JCPenney’s in-store trained window professionals. They’ll help customers to find and order draperies, shades and blinds in the right size and style. Customers can even choose special colors, fabrics and sizes for hard-to-fit orders. Once the customer picks up the completed order, it is ready to hang.
• Custom Windows—Customers can make an appointment with one of JCPenney’s trained design professionals to meet in their home. They’ll help the customer decide what looks best on their windows, fitting into their lifestyle preference and budget. JCPenney will then measure, tailor and install the custom window coverings. In-home consultation is free and our installers are JCPenney Associates (we do not hire outside contractors for installation jobs).
JCPenney owns two soft window fabrication workrooms, one on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast.
Are decorative hardware and embellishments increasing in popularity?
Yes. While many customers select very elaborate and traditional cornice-style top treatments, an increasing number of customers select window coverings that showcase the panel tops and the less-structured fabrics valances. These allow the hardware to be seen, and it’s increasingly viewed by customers as “window jewelry.”
Will window coverings and custom decorating likely have a larger or lesser part in the company’s overall product mix going forward?
Custom decorating is and will continue to be an important business at JCPenney, it adds value to the customer shopping experience and serves as a key point of differentiation amongst our competitors.
The economy through the remainder of 2009 is on everybody’s mind, how do you see the immediate future for business in the window coverings segment? What specific plans or programs does JCPenney have in place to sustain sales?
During this challenging economic environment, our objective is to continue to innovate, ensuring that when customers are buying for their homes, they do it at JCPenney. A recent example of our innovation is the introduction of our new in-store Window Cover Design Center.
Currently in 29 stores (with plans to expand), our Window Cover Design Centers make shopping for window coverings at JCPenney even easier. The hub of the window department, JCPenney’s new Window Cover Design Centers are located across from the cash wrap and feature a large counter with stools, providing customers a space to review their design options. The store’s design studio—staffed with one to two design coordinators ready to assist customers—sits behind the center, while a flat screen monitor above the counter features a video loop that highlights the various window covering options available at JCPenney: ready-made, made-to-measure and custom decorating.
Furthermore, while people may put a hold on buying or selling a home in this economic environment, window treatments continue to provide an easy way to update a home without breaking the bank (can be matched to existing furniture, fabrics and room colors; don’t have to invest in big expensive pieces of furniture, etc.). And rather than spending money on expensive trips, people are opting for a staycation at home. With more people spending time at home, they have a renewed interest in finding ways they can make their houses nicer places to spend time in.
Are energy-savings treatments gaining in demand?
Yes, they are. Soaring costs have all of us looking for ways to conserve energy, and therefore we absolutely promote the energy saving benefits of window treatments at JCPenney.
One of the best ways to keep your energy dollars from flying out the window is using window treatments… not only to enhance your décor, but to help reduce your energy-related costs.
For energy savings, the best window treatments to use are cellular shades, solar mesh roller shades/sliding panels, thermal roller shades, light-blocking roller shades, blackout roller shades, roman shades, blinds and draperies (the heavier the better)—all of which we sell at JCPenney.
Customers can find tips and ideas on energy savings through jcp.com’s energy savings “Solution” page and easily shop for energy saving window treatments by searching for items under the energy savings category. Additionally, items that provide energy saving benefits are highlighted in all direct mail pieces and catalogs featuring window treatments.
Are customers asking about eco-friendly or sustainable materials?
Yes, they are. We share with our customers a deep commitment to protecting the environment and want them to feel good about shopping with us. Working with renowned environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo, JCPenney has launched Simply Green™, an exclusive-to-JCPenney designation that assists customers in making environmentally conscious purchases. A wide range of merchandise—from apparel to home accessories—bears the Simply Green mark, which highlights for customers merchandise that lessens the impact on the environment. Simply Green shows our customers that living green doesn’t have to be complicated nor does it require the sacrifice of style, quality or smart prices they have come to expect from JCPenney.
Merchandise that qualifies for the designation must all be made from organic, renewable or recycled materials. Our bamboo blinds have received the Simply Green designation due to their organic nature. Customers can easily shop for eco-friendly window treatments by searching for items under the Simply Green category.
In which product categories does JCPenney see the most potential for growth in the year ahead? What product trends, design trends and sales trends do you see?
There’s growth potential in many categories as customer wants and needs change. The current focus on energy saving benefits certainly applies to applicable window covering categories. Trends will continue to change as younger customers enter the market.