JCPenney Re-brands… Again

Only a year after modifying their Massimo Vignelli-designed logo–in use since 1971–JCPenney are scrapping their old logo altogether for a brand new look. It looks a little like a patriotic lego set to me, though I have to say that it looks cute on the bags and on the storefront. This is, no doubt, part of JCPenney’s major turnaround strategy which is going to feature innovative new pricing and a reduced emphasis on sales and promotions to distance themselves from rival Kohl’s.

What do you think? Does it look cheap or is it an effective re-brand?

UPDATE: I need to do this story proper justice. There are very big changes afoot at JCPenney. Their current CEO came from Apple and was responsible for much of Apple’s current wildly successful retail strategy. They plan on redesigning and renovating all of their stores with a “Main Street” concept with many smaller stores-within-a-store, and standardizing pricing at full dollar amounts and eliminating most sales and promotions. Instead, there’ll be an everyday-low-price model (slashing prices on most goods around 40%) with items becoming marked down as they age. Forbes has gone out on a limb in calling JCPenney the “most exciting retailer of 2012.” Compared to the slow, laggard Sears refreshes under Eddie Lampert, it is true that this dramatic change will at least be an interesting one to watch. It remains to be seen whether it works or not.

Jordan’s Furniture to Open Mall Store

Former Caldor/Old Navy Store at Warwick Mall

Jordan’s Furniture, a New England chain of large, destination-oriented furniture stores, is moving into the former Caldor/Old Navy store (pictured above) in the Warwick Mall in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Last spring, the Warwick Mall was heavily damaged by a flood and was closed for months. As a result of the renovations, many retailers either left the center entirely or moved to new spaces. As part of the process, Old Navy–who had occupied part of the first floor of the massive, two-level former Caldor store at the mall’s center court–decided to move to a more appropriately-sized in-line space instead of moving back into their too-large digs. The second level of the store has been unused since Caldor shuttered the store in 1999. This created a space for a new anchor to move in, and enter Jordan’s:

Furniture shopping remains a tactile experience, according to an industry spokeswoman, as American consumers still like to see and touch furniture pieces before buying them.

“It’s not unusual in midsized cities for there to be a cluster of home furnishing stores in proximity. It’s happening all over” the country, said Jaclyn C. Hirschhaut, of the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a furniture manufacturers’ trade group. “Ultimately, to the consumer, it makes the process of shopping for furniture so much easier.”

Typically, furniture stores make for sleepy mall anchors–we’ve all seen a dying mall here or there with an Ashley or Bob’s Discount Furniture store clinging on to one of the darkened anchors for cheap rent. Jordan’s, however, is a bit of an anomaly in that their stores are destinations in and of themselves, and often feature a variety of attractions and eateries (many with a local focus) to draw people to them even when they’re not looking to buy a sofa:
Jordan’s is well known for its splashy store layouts — one has an IMAX theater, another has a trapeze school. Eliot Tatelman, Jordan’s president and chief executive officer, declined to say what people will find in the Warwick store when it opens later this year.

Jordan’s stores are typically very, very large, so this will be one of the smallest stores (if not *the* smallest store) in their portfolio, and their first in Rhode Island.

In other news, it was announced only a few weeks ago that the adjacent, long ailing, and almost completely vacant Rhode Island Mall–the oldest two level mall in New England and the only one designed by Victor Gruen–will finally be put out of its misery and shuttered on April 30.


Retail News Digest for Monday, March 14, 2011

Comings and goings:

Other retail news:

  • An article on investigates the growing trend of putting grocery and upscale/foodie vendors in malls.  The grocery thing isn’t new, though.  Early malls frequently had a grocery store anchor, and most closed by the 1970s-1980s.   Malls in other parts of the world, even Canada, often currently feature a grocery anchor.  It’s neat that the trend is coming back though, because I’m not entirely sure why it left.
  • According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, the Atlantic Station project will be changing from a ‘mall feel’ to be ‘more like Atlanta’.  I’m not sure exactly what this means, but they plan to retenant about 25% of the development and give it a more local, personalized feel.
  • Westfield’s Warner Center development is underway in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. When complete, the area will be a new ‘downtown’ node for the area, if not for the entire valley.
  • According to The Atlantic, will be the mall of the future.  Is this entirely a new idea?  On one hand, many people do spend an inordinate amount of time surfing Facebook, but does aggregating online retail purchases from many sites into one somehow completely usurp bricks-and-mortar establishments?  I think being able to go to a store and physically feel merchandise will always be the trump card for keeping actual retail stores in business in many sectors.
  • A blogger on explores the implications of sameness in malls across the country, and the reasons why fewer local stores exist in malls today.
  • Maplewood Mall in the suburban Twin Cities is getting a much-needed renovation to compete with Goliath, also known as the Mall of America.

Retail News Digest for Sunday, February 6, 2011

Comings and goings:

Other retail news:

Retail News Digest for Sunday, January 16, 2011

This is a relatively new feature to our site.  While we’ve periodically reported retail news throughout the years, we’d like to establish a regular digest of major retail events on a bi-weekly or as-warranted basis.  We’ll see how it goes.

As with our mall articles, interactivity is key.  While we’d like to try to cover all major news stories, this is not possible for practical purposes.  There are some stories we will inherently miss – we live in a big world full of a lot of information.  As such, you can help us gather the news by posting relevant recent happenings to the comments page for these news features.  And, as always, you can post specific news items to their individual mall posts, if we have one. So, feel free to add stories you’d like to discuss and leave comments on the ones we’ve listed.

Comings and goings:

Other retail news:

Waldenbooks Slowly Disappearing


This isn’t a shocker, but according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (which has been reprinted all over the place, including the San Francisco Chronicle), Borders plans to close another 200 of its Waldenbooks stores, leaving a paltry 130 remaining in the chain. Despite what the article says, it’s unlikely even those are long for this world.

In an era where the long tail of content is well-served online, Borders and Barnes & Noble have survived by positioning themselves as cultural and social gathering spaces. Plus, the stores are big, so they can carry a lot of titles. Waldenbooks and B. Dalton–who B&N is closing up at the same time–have no such luck. These tiny stores were always meant to bring a representative selection of literature to shopping malls and small towns, and like record stores before them, there’s just no need anymore.

It’s still a little sad, since I have plenty of fond memories of shopping at the Waldenbooks in my local mall when I was young.

Retail Newsbrief: Tim Horton’s, JCPenney, Smith & Hawken, Ritz Camera, Goody’s


Two large, popular chains are coming to New York City this month.  Tim Horton’s, the venerable Canadian donut-and-coffee outlet, is opening 12 outlets across Manhattan and Brooklyn this month, with 3 more coming in August.  The stores are replacing former Dunkin Donuts outlets, and hopefully will find a niche in one of the toughest and most saturated markets in the world.  These locations aren’t the first in the country for Tim’s – they’re already in 11 U.S. states, mostly in New England and the upper Great Lakes.  Good luck to them, and may they open more. 

JCPenney, with stores in other parts of New York City, is opening a giant store in Manhattan Mall across from Herald Square on July 31.  The store, on the former site of Gimbel’s, Abraham and Straus, and Stern’s, is the first and only location in Manhattan.  In accordance with opening one of the chain’s largest stores in the densest city in the country, JCP is embarking on a hip marketing campaign, attempting to debunk the chain’s reputation for being average and unfashionable.     

In sadder news, the economy has claimed two more chains: Smith & Hawken, an upscale garden retailer, and Ritz Camera.  Smith & Hawken is a 56-store chain owned by lawn-care giant Scotts Miracle Gro, of suburban Columbus, Ohio; however, the Smith & Hawken chain is based in tony Marin County, California.  Ritz Camera, a 400-store chain operating under that name and several others, including Boater’s World, is also closing all of its stores unless a last-minute save occurs.  The hope is that a going-concern buyer will purchase at least some of the stores to keep the chain going, but it’s not looking good.  In the end, it means more vacancies for your local mall.

In a bit more astonishing news, a family clothing/variety chain that went out of business earlier this year is back in the fray, somewhat randomly.  Goody’s family clothing, which closed all 287 stores earlier this year, has been reinvigorated by Texas-based Stage Stores, Inc., who purchased the Goody’s name and intends to reopen Goody’s-branded stores in markets where Goody’s existed and was proftable.  Kind of neat.

Big Lots Gets All Fancy

According to an article in the May 15, 2009 Columbus Dispatch, Big Lots – a discount chain known for selling overstock and closeout merchandise – aims to make an even bigger name for itself in the eye of the consumer.

Not only is it the company’s first new store in central Ohio since 2005, it is a departure from the past strategy of locating in retail centers and strip malls aimed at discount shoppers.

By choosing a former Linens ‘n Things site across from Polaris Fashion Place mall, Big Lots is hoping to upgrade its profile and test some new ways of presenting its merchandise.



According to an article in the May 15, 2009 Columbus Dispatch, Big Lots – a discount chain known for selling overstock and closeout merchandise – aims to make an even bigger name for itself in the eye of the consumer. 

Not only is it the company’s first new store in central Ohio since 2005, it is a departure from the past strategy of locating in retail centers and strip malls aimed at discount shoppers.

By choosing a former Linens ‘n Things site across from Polaris Fashion Place mall, Big Lots is hoping to upgrade its profile and test some new ways of presenting its merchandise.

“This is the kind of location we couldn’t touch in the past,” said Chief Executive Steve Fishman. “Now that our performance has improved and there is a good supply of valuable real estate available, we can capitalize on prime real-estate opportunities like Polaris. We’ll feature the same great deals Big Lots customers have come to expect — in an A-plus location and in our hometown.”

Such expansion is actually to be expected for a company such as Big Lots during an economic downturn, said Sandy Skrovan, senior vice president and lead analyst at Columbus-based consulting and analysis firm Retail Forward.

“Generally speaking, a recession is a good time to be in the dollar store/closeout business,” Skrovan said. “Solid performance results being turned in by some leading small-format value retailers are enabling them to invest in more stores” or renovate old ones.

The 35,000-square-foot Polaris store showcases a “next generation layout” for Big Lots, including a center court, better lighting, new signs and wider, angled aisles.


I’m not sure if this will be Big Lots’ only location like this, but it’s certainly a departure from the norm.  And, although they don’t appear to be changing up the merchandise mix itself, the change in marketing tactic is almost certain to acquire the type of customer Big Lots hasn’t been able to nab – upper to upper-middle class households. 

As an example, the company is displaying furniture on a hanging rack above a piece from the same set. “We got that idea from Ikea,” Johnson said.

If you think about it, the price points at Ikea and Big Lots are similar, but the difference in what kind of shopper comes in the door depends on the marketing.  Ikea, with its suave, nordic-chic coolness attracts a wide variety of upmarket shoppers who aren’t the typical bargain-hunter – just go to an Ikea any weekend and count the number of BMWs, Lexuses, and Land Rovers all waiting to drive away some oddly-named household item.  In contrast, Big Lots’ marketing has – until now – been directed at a lower-income demographic, with handmade-looking and outdated signage and decor.  In addition, Big Lots stores are unabashedly dowdy – most of them are in reclaimed deadbox spaces, and much of the time all Big Lots did to renovate them was to move in their merchandise and flip on the power switch. 

This type of marketing is especially prescient given the gloomy economy.  Now more than ever it’s especially approprate for dollar stores and discounters to appeal to a wider demographic spread, since even the upper middle class is in need of a bargain today.  Entering into mass market appeal also means entering into anchor spaces in malls, which I think is great for malls in a time when diversification may be the key to staying afloat.  Malls across the country are thinking of creative ways to fill large junior-anchor and anchor spaces in a time when a gigantic store in this space is outmoded and obsolete as an efficient, profitable business model.  We’ve seen stores like Forever 21, Steve & Barrys, entertainment, and other boxes take these spaces with wildly varying amounts of success.   

What do you think about stores like Big Lots, box Dollar stores, and other extreme-discounters entering into junior and anchor spaces in malls?

Dillard’s Suing Simon and GGP Over Deteriorating Condition of Austin Mall

Highland Mall Dillards, from Austin Business Journal

Here’s another interesting curiosity: Dillard’s, who maintains two stores at Austin’s beleaguered Highland Mall, is suing the Highland Mall Limited Partnership–made up jointly of General Growth Properties and Simon Property Group–for letting the mall deteriorate sharply. Dillard’s plans to close both of their stores in the center, which already lost JCPenney in 2006.

Gang activity, crime and a store that sells toilet paper are some of the reasons why anchor retailer Dillard’s wants out of Highland Mall before its lease is up…

Dillard’s alleges that the owner — Highland Mall Limited Partnership, made up of Simon Property Group Inc. [NYSE: SPG] and General Growth Properties Inc. [NYSE: GGP], two of the country’s largest mall operators — let it deteriorate to such a degree that it has forced Dillard’s to close.

It would be interesting to see how this pans out; if they’re successful I suspect we may see more retailers take such a tack to exit rapidly deteriorating shopping malls.

(image: Austin Business Journal)

Old News: Goodbye to Gottschalks and Fortunoff

Isn’t it obvious it would turn out this way?


On March 30, Gottschalks announced they were going to liquidate, extinguishing any hope the 105-year-old chain would continue to operate. We noted a few months ago that Gottschalks existed in a weird place–kind of a dowdy combo of Kohls and Macy’s, with mostly mall-based locations–and that their senior citizen-skewing product mix wasn’t likely to keep them afloat through their troubles. This all proved to be true, but another factor in their demise was some truly terrible bad luck: the store fleet for Fresno-based Gottschalks is concentrated most heavily in the areas most adversely impacted by the housing crisis of 2008. Central Valley cities like Modesto and Stockton have been struggling with year-over-year real estate declines upward of 50%, which is truly catastrophic for the families living there–try and imagine having your personal net worth decline by two or three hundred thousand dollars in just one year! I’m really not sure what I’d do in such a situation, but I can tell you one thing I probably wouldn’t do when faced with such a situation: go shopping at Gottschalks.

The double whammy for malls, of course, is that Gottschalks and Mervyn’s co-anchored many malls together. Some malls, such as Bakersfield’s East Hills Mall, didn’t even have another anchor aside from these two. This will spell doom for a great many of the centers lining California’s Central Valley, but also many other places throughout the west where both chains operated.


The other story we forgot to follow up on–whoopsie!–is the equally-unsurprising failure of New York-based Fortunoff department stores. Like Gottschalks, we liked these guys just because they felt like a relic from another era, but “relic” and profitability don’t tend to go in the same sentence. The 2008 acquisition of the chain by NRDC Equity Partners–who helmed a successful turnaround of Lord & Taylor even in a bad economic environment (though this is now faltering, I’ve heard) and who also recently acquired Canada’s Hudson Bay Company–seemed to give these guys some hope. But ultimately their product mix and store fleet was perhaps too strange to survive in the current retail landscape. Their mostly mall-based, large stores leaned heavily towards housewares and jewelry but without any specific niche. They had neither the hip cachet of newer, smaller competitors like Crate & Barrell or West Elm nor the well-established legacy of larger old line stores like Macy’s or bargain prices of Best Buy and Wal-Mart, plus three of the four of their remaining stores were located in second-tier malls; one of them is even completely dead. What is sad about the loss of Fortunoff is that it’s a quirky regional chain that still remains well-loved; their imminent disappearance reminds me of New England losses from the ’90s and early 2000s like Apex, Ann & Hope, or Lechmere.