Myron “Mike” Ullman, 60, is the very epitome of a seasoned retail veteran, but he retains the same curiosity and drive to win as someone just out of the starting gate. The J.C. Penney chief came to the Plano, Texas-based chain by way of R.H. Macy & Co. (where he was chairman and CEO) and Federated. Since arriving at Penney in late 2004, Ullman has added spring to the steps of the chain’s employees and executives, reinvigorating the century-old corporate culture and the stores themselves. New policies for recognizing and rewarding associates, zippy new marketing campaigns, trendy pop-up stores, exclusive merchandise deals, and a renewed focus on customers and merchandise are adding shine and polish to a once-tired department store chain. Under Ullman, Penney also is aggressively expanding its square footage, mostly with off-the-mall stores.
While Penney is experiencing the same late-2007 downturn of other department store retailers, analysts are sticking by the chain, saying that its unique merchandise, competitive prices and seasoned management should insulate Penney more so than its peers. Ullman is looking ahead, announcing his chain will stick to its growth plan of opening 50 stores a year.