JCPenney's Collaboration with People StyleWatch -- Finally, an Initiative That's Sticky

Last Updated Apr 20, 2010 6:20 PM EDT

People StyleWatch Cover Jessica SimpsonJCPenney's (JCP) been lining the style piper's pockets a lot lately, what with its $1.4 million spend for Oscar night commercials, signing supermodel Cindy Crawford to design the jewelry line One Kiss, and marking down all that flimsy Olsenboye merchandise. While the news from Plano, Texas headquarters just keeps coming, Penney's latest collaboration with People StyleWatch holds more promise than any of these recent initiatives.

Starting in September, People StyleWatch editors will choose "Must Have" items from JCPenney's fashion assortment that will be showcased in stores, online at jcp.com, and through print and digital media. It's a first for both retailer and publisher. The plan is to refresh the picks ten times a year -â€" along with new editions of the magazine. In case you were wondering if the deal favors Penney's, StyleWatch's publisher Time Inc. (TWX) will be able to sell subscriptions directly to customers in all 1,110 JCPenney stores.

Getting together with People StyleWatch will have the retailer tapped into a market share that is just ripe for buying. Backed by the perennially-popular supermarket tabloid People, StyleWatch is its "consumer-friendly guide to celebrity style." Its editors cull through thousands of red carpet and paparazzi photos to deliver and dish on celeb threads while showing readers how to make trends work for them.

Says StyleWatch, "We inspire women to try new looks and buy new products, making beauty and fashion accessible, addictive and fun," to a circulation hovering around 800,000 eager readers in the last six months of 2009 -- and that's just for print. Online StyleWatch entertains 1.2 million, 31 percent of which are loyal clickers.

The StyleWatch reader is just who JCPenney wants to convert to a buyer. Though my BNET colleague Mike Duff argued that Penney's Oscar ads were aimed at appealing to the taste level of the Middle American shopper (style-conscious but not overly trendy), I still think the retailer is trying to remake itself into a destination for cutting-edge style a la NYC and LA. Guess where StyleWatch's biggest audience resides? New York and California. Mike suggested that even denizens of such urban fashion meccas may be looking for a fashion respite. I've yet to meet a dedicated follower of fashion who's looking for a break from style -â€" unless of course, it's a price break.

No, JCPenney's making a very calculated move to grab all the fashion cred it can. For those who follow celebrity style religiously in the pages of People, StyleWatch "Must Haves" are the kind of endorsement that will have them clicking and shopping faster than a manicure can dry.