OPERATIONS

Penney’s chief technology officer out

BY Marianne Wilson

Plano, Texas — Another executive hired by former J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson has apparently left the chain. Kristen Blum, executive VP and chief technology officer, is no longer with Penney, according to various reports that cited a note to investors by Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig. Penney has yet to officially announce her departure, which was also reported by Women’s Wear Daily.

Blum joined Penney in January 2012, from PepsiCo., where she was CIO of the company’s Enterprise Transformation unit. From 2006 to 2010, she was senior VP, chief information officer at Abercrombie & Fitch. Prior to that, Blum spent four years at Apple, as director of supply chain solutions and international retail.

Blum, who is on the National Retail Federation’s CIO Council, leaves Penney at a crucial time: The chain has embarked on an extensive IT overhaul, adopting a full suite of systems from Oracle.

Wienswig’s report noted that Penney has struggled to drive Web traffic, citing flat web traffic in April and three consecutive months of declining growth, according to comScore data. In a conference call last month, new CEO Ullman said that fixing Penney’s online storefront was a top priority.

Weinswig described Penney’s IT overhaul as a “heart transplant” for the company.

“While CEO Mike Ullman continues to put the old band back together again, we would be encouraged to see him consider external Silicon Valley talent to quickly fill the position

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OPERATIONS

Martha Stewart helps Penney celebrate home department makeover

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — J.C. Penney Co. on Thursday took the wraps off its highly anticipated home department in more than 500 stores nationwide. The new department is made up of a collection of branded in-store shops, including Michael Graves Design, MarthaCelebrations, Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler, and Design by Conran. Each brand is presented in a boutique-like setting, with its own distinct look. The spaces range from about 300 sq. ft. to about 800 sq. ft. each.

(See photos)

Penney celebrated the home launch with a party Thursday night in Manhattan. The event drew some of the featured brands’ biggest stars, including hipster designer Jonathan Adler, famous architect Michael Graves and celebrated British designer Sir Terence Conran. But the biggest attraction was domestic diva Martha Stewart, who posed next to her colorful line of themed party goods, and also with Penney CEO Myron “Mike” Ullman. (Stewart, a very focal supporter of former CEO Ron Johnson, showed up despite that fact that she and Penney are still battling Macy’s Inc. over whether the Stewart/Penney partnership violates an earlier agreement Stewart had with Macy’s. A final ruling in the case is due within the next few weeks.)

Penney’s home center revamp was conceived by Johnson, and was a crucial part of his strategy to turnaround the ailing chain. And while Penney under Ullman is clearly putting a lot of distance between itself and Johnson, the home makeover remains crucial to the chain’s success going forward.

In a report by CNBC, JPMorgan retail analyst Matthew Boss said he was impressed by Penney’s new home shops.

“Personally, I was wowed by the stores in terms of the appearance, in terms of the product presentation, and the brands that are actually on the shelves,” he said. “So I think when the consumers see this for the first time they are probably going to be transformed and not believe they are in a J.C. Penney.”

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OPERATIONS

Lumber Liquidators names HR head

BY Staff Writer

Toano, Va. — Lumber Liquidators, the largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in North America, announced the appointment of Sandra C. Whitehouse as senior VP chief human resources officer, effective later this month.

Whitehouse most recently served as chief human resources officer for Earthbound Farm. Previously, she led the human resources department at Orchard Supply Hardware.

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