J.C. Penney Talks Sense and Style with She Said

Last Updated Sep 14, 2009 8:40 PM EDT

J.C. Penney has launched another women's clothing line to provide a better value alternative for working women.

The new line, She Said, joins an array of women's apparel labels the company has been boosting recently including Bisou Bisou, Twelfth of Eleven and I Heart Ronson that specifically target younger women, a group that is gaining increasing attention from major retailers. And the retailer plans to support She Said and its other labels aimed at younger women with a dedicated addition to its web site to provide a little extra dose of hipness. As part of its introduction, Liz Sweney, J.C. Penney's executive vice president for women's, described how the new line is positioned in terms of the overall customer proposition: "The launch of She Said strategically positions the company to meet the demand for a sportswear collection that works into a younger customer's everyday life with cutting-edge style and quality at affordable prices, ultimately making J.C. Penney the destination for this important customer niche."

The company developed the store brand in house, a fact the Sweney also highlighted. The company's design capabilities and the initiatives it has launched to roll out fashion products at the right time in the style cycle then move them through stores efficiently is helping the retailer address consumer needs more effectively, she asserted. "She Said is the latest example of how our in-house design talent - along with our cycle time/flow initiatives - is a strong competitive advantage for J.C. Penney, providing us the capability, flexibility and speed to step up our style with a variety of new contemporary brands," she stated.

Of course, getting fashion right has been something J.C. Penney has been thinking about lately, particularly as it has set itself as a more relevant retailer for stylish customers. It may never be cutting edge -- indeed it is fighting a reputation as stylishly late -- but the retailer clearly recognizes that consumers nationwide are more aware of fashion, its cycles and what it takes to stay in touch. Its store opening in New York and other recent company efforts have been made in part to signal that it is indeed in touch and determined to bring customers its take on style, one that is attractive to shoppers in Middle America as well as those on the Coasts.

Doing so won't be easy and, with She Said, J.C. Penney is taking a particular slant on value, one way of making fashion more attractive in a recession. Developed as appropriate for work and socializing after, and positioned at the better and best levels of J.C. Penney's good/better/best pricing structure, She Said will be about as costly as I Heart Ronson and the rest but with a more utilitarian, less frivolous sensibility than its sister brands, one that the retailer seems to feel young women will value today.

So, with She Said, J.C. Penney is trying to strike a bargain as well as provide one, sensing an opportunity to reach some nascent demand. Said Sweney:

After months of pulling back on spending due to the recession, consumers have a pent up desire to spend, even if only a little. However, they're not looking to spend it on basics, they want something special. Now is the time to invest and grow our contemporary business, taking our style to a younger, more discerning audience by offering them new, fashion-forward merchandise - along with a new exciting and engaging shopping experience - all at our affordable prices.
The She Said line may not win over skeptical fashionistas, but it signals that, in its designing aspirations, J.C. Penney recognizes that the customers it can reach most effectively are trying to strike the same kind of balance between style and sensibility that it is.