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J.C. Penney acquires stake in Martha Stewart

BY Staff Writer

New York City — J.C. Penney launched a strategic alliance with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to create a comprehensive retail experience featuring Martha Stewart products, know-how and advice.

The partnership goes beyond just featuring Martha Stewart brands. Beginning in February 2013, customers will be able to visit distinct Martha Stewart retail stores inside the majority of J.C. Penney department stores, the company said. In addition, these stores will be staffed by trained associates that can offer customers advice on how to best use the products.

The agreement also includes the launch of an e-commerce site in 2013 that will offer Martha Stewart expertise and enable consumers to purchase a wide range of home and lifestyle products, including those sold in the Martha Stewart stores inside J.C. Penney, and other merchandise designed or selected by Martha Stewart. MSLO is expected to receive in excess of $200 million from J.C. Penney over the initial 10-year contract period.

J.C. Penney now holds a 16.6% stake in MSLO and will have representation on MSLO’s board of directors.

Ron Johnson, CEO of J.C. Penney, said, "I have long admired Martha Stewart’s extraordinary influence on the way American families live and enjoy their lives. For nearly two decades she has been the primary person we turn to for advice regarding food, entertaining, decorating, and celebrating life’s memorable moments. The opportunity to work with Martha and create an entirely new shopping experience, both in-store and online, is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

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Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index up in November

BY Staff Writer

New York City — The Conference Board Employment Trends Index increased in November to 103.7, up from the revised figure of 102.42 in October. The November figure is up 6.4% from the same month a year ago.

"The Employment Trends Index posted a large increase for the second straight month, with all of its components showing gains over these two months. The better-than-expected growth in economic activity in recent months is likely to lead to some acceleration in job growth in the beginning of 2012," said Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board.

However, Levanon cautioned that the improvement may be short lived, in particular as the U.S. economy slows down once again in the coming quarters.

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Netflix, Google, Amazon, Target and Publix rank highest in brand simplicity

BY Staff Writer

New York City — Netflix, Google and Amazon top a list of the 10 “simplest” U.S. brands, according to Siegel+Gale’s second annual Global Brand Simplicity Index.

(Netflix was picked as the simplest brand in the survey after it announced price hikes but before the announcement of the formation of Qwikster, which was subsequently reversed. In the wake of these missteps, mass subscriber departures followed.)

"This survey demonstrates that brands that put a premium on simpler and more transparent user experiences and interactions inspire confidence and generate customer loyalty,” said Howard Belk, Siegel+Gale co-CEO and chief creative officer.

Also among the top-ranked simplest brands are retailers Target, Publix, Whole Foods Market and shipping UPS. Rounding out the top 10 are fast food purveyors Subway, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.

“It is time for brands across all industries to recognize that communicating in a clear, direct and straightforward manner generates a high level of customer loyalty and, ultimately, profit," said David Srere, Siegel+Gale co-CEO and chief strategy officer. "Consumers are demanding simplicity in all of their interactions, and those organizations that can satisfy this demand will be able to compete — and thrive — in today’s competitive marketplace."

Within the Internet retail industry, Amazon, Zappos and iTunes ranked among the leaders in providing customers with simple interactions and experiences online. Consumers benefit from easy price comparison, free shipping and a streamlined selection process funneled through customized communications.

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