Will Women’s Clothing Save JCPenney?

 In Blog

If there’s one retail category that is all over the place, depending on the brand and the channel, it’s women’s clothing. Many traditional brick and mortar stores, JCPenney included, are suffering at the hands of online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. Others, like Kohls, are finding their way in the highly competitive market.

There’s no predicting which way this market will turn right now, which makes it pretty interesting.

Will JCPenney Suffer the Same Fate as Sears?

Sears made headlines across multiple news outlets when it filed for bankruptcy. The retail world watched in awe as the retailer was saved from Chapter 11 by its chairman, Eddie Lampert, who bought it out of bankruptcy earlier this year. Many wonder if department store giant JCPenney might follow suit.

The brand is suffering both online and off, with transactions down 2.1% year-over-year, dropping from 17.2M in 2017 to 16.8M in 2018.

Its online difficulties seem to stem from trouble in generating traffic, though converting visitors isn’t a problem. Overall, 2.8% of visits resulted in a conversion, higher even than Walmart’s 2.5% and Kohl’s 2.3%, though, understandably, JCPenney is losing conversions to Amazon, Walmart, and eBay.

The brand is struggling with its physical stores as well and announced plans to shut down 27 stores this year.

Is Women’s Clothing JCPenney’s Saving Grace?

While JCPenney is declining in growth year-over-year and struggling to find its foothold in the retail space, the women’s clothing category for the brand is at least a bright spot.

Transactions at JCPenney.com have increased in the women’s clothing category 17% year-over-year. In measuring against Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and Sears, only Kohl’s has surpassed this volume count, with incredibly yielding growth from 2017 to 2018.

As a whole, the women’s clothing category grew by 21% in the same time period. November and December are strong months for the women’s clothing category as a whole (chalk that up to Black Friday and holiday promotions), particularly for Kohl’s, JCPenney, and Macy’s; however, Macy’s declined in transactions for both months year-over-year. Kohl’s and JCPenney saw increased transaction growth in 2018 over 2017, though Walmart, Target, and Sears showed declines year-over-year.

In terms of conversion rates for women’s clothing, they tend to be relatively high for the category. For JCPenney, approximately 8.2% of website visitors who browsed the women’s clothing product page in 2018 ended up buying, bested only by Kohl’s, who saw an 8.9% conversion rate in women’s clothing in 2018.

JCPenney’s prices for women’s clothing are in the middle of the pack. The average women’s clothing product purchased was below $30 at JCPenney, which was lower than Macy’s and Kohl’s but higher than Walmart, Sears, and Target.

For the first two months of Q1 2019, we have seen jcpenney.com drop to the third spot in the women’s clothing category, representing 4.3% of the total market share, while Kohl’s has snagged the second place spot at 5.3% of the market, right behind Amazon, who has more than 34% of the share.

Take Note from Kohl’s

JCPenney has been struggling to find its place in the market since its poor decision to move from coupons and discounts to everyday low prices.

Can anything keep it from disappearing as Sears has?

Kohl’s might have a few answers. The brand’s new CEO has an updated strategy for reaching a younger audience, including selling Amazon-branded products in stores (despite naysayers being sure this is a bad idea) and focusing more on the in-store experience. It’s the hope that customers who buy products online but return them in the store will come in and find something else they want to buy while they’re there, turning the negative into a potential positive.

The retail market is in an interesting place as brands try to compete with online giants like Amazon. We’ll keep our eye on this space and report new findings to you. In the meantime, for even more in-depth data from eCommerce behavior across the web, you can start a two-week free trial of Jumpshot Insights.



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