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Penney makes big bet on baby market with departure of Babies “R” Us

BY Marianne Wilson

J.C. Penney is hoping to fill the void left by the departure of Babies “R” Us, and the rapidly shrinking store portfolio of Sears.

The department store retailer announced that it is opening in-store baby shops at 500 Penney stores starting August 30. The shops will will sell cribs, high chairs, strollers and car seats (items that were previously available only on the retailer’s web site), along with bottles, pacifiers, diaper bags, bouncer seats and activity centers from an array of brands.

The new shops will feature updated graphics and signage and will be located adjacent to baby apparel, whose assortment has been expanded. Most of the product displayed will be stocked at the store.

Nursery furniture such as cribs and crib mattresses will be available to take home the same day in select stores, while the remaining stores will arrange to have those purchases shipped directly to the customer’s home.

“The baby care business is expected to reach over $13 billion by 2021  and we are seizing this opportunity to pursue available market share and aggressively go after the baby customer with these new shops,” said James Starke, senior VP and head of merchandising for J.C. Penney. “We’ve strategically chosen these 500 J.C. Penney locations because the majority of the stores are near a specialty baby retailer that has recently closed its doors.”

Explaining the rationale behind the shops, Starke said that Penney appreciates the importance of having a broad assortment of baby products online it also knows that there are certain items that parents – especially first-time parents – want to see in person.

“They want to test out the stroller, feel the crib sheets and compare bottle sizes in person,” he said. Our competition is underestimating the importance of a physical in-store baby shop and that is where J.C. Penney is going to differentiate.”

The new baby shops will launch in time for the retailer’s annual “Baby Sale” later this month and will be promoted via a dedicated 12-page direct mail piece.

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