Why JC Penney Is Adding Appliances

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If you can’t sell the stuff that’s already on the shelves, maybe the answer is to put up more shelves and add new stuff. If it doesn’t work nothing’s lost, and if it does well, it was a stroke of genius. J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is clearly hoping for the latter outcome with its announcement Tuesday that the company will be selling appliances on February 1 in a pilot program at 22 stores.

One could argue that appliance sales have played a significant role in the comeback at Best Buy, and the Kenmore appliance brand is one of the most significant assets remaining at Sears. J.C. Penney has not sold appliances for more than 30 years.

Marvin Ellison, CEO at J.C. Penney, said:

Our research shows that the female consumer is the key decision maker in the appliance purchase process. Recognizing that over 70 percent of our shoppers are women, we`re going to improve the way customers shop for appliances by building an emotional connection with the female shopper who already trusts JCPenney to furnish her home and wardrobe.

New shoes, new fridge. We totally get it.

The in-store pilot program will include stores in the San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa areas, and each store will feature 90 to 150 models, and appliance brands will include GE, Hotpoint, LG and Samsung. The company also said that it plans to make a broad assortment of major appliances available on its website later this spring.

Ellison, who took the helm at J.C. Penney last fall after a long stretch at Home Depot (which also sells appliances), also noted that although sales results in J.C. Penney’s Home business “are much improved, it still remains one of the least productive areas in the store.”

On an up day in the markets, J.C. Penney’s stock price was down about 2.4% in late-morning trading, at $6.84 in a 52-week range of $6.50 to $10.09.