06/06/2013 07:57 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

J.C. Penney Betting New Home Goods Section Will Turn The Company Around


NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc's revamped home goods section is at the heart of the struggling department store's plan to return to growth, but the benefits will not be immediate, the retailer's chief executive said on Thursday.

Home goods such as bedding, towels and window treatments accounted for 12 percent of Penney revenues last year, down from 21 percent six years earlier.

Penney held an event in Manhattan Thursday to mark the completion of the roll out of its revamped home section at 500 of its largest stores. The new section features shops by designers like Jonathan Adler and home goods queen Martha Stewart and are meant to breathe new life into Penney's declining but once dominant home business.

Myron Ullman, who was CEO from 2004 to 2011, returned in April to steady the company after Ron Johnson's disastrous stint, during which sales fell 25 percent after he got rid of the discounting Penney was famous for.

Ullman said it was too early to say when the company would return to sales growth or how quickly home goods would contribute to that.

But he suggested that the company would have a stronger footing within months and in time for the holiday season.

"There's no single date that is magic," Ullman told Reuters in reference to when sales will rise again. "By fall we expect to have the inventory we want, the messaging we want, with pricing that's appropriate to compete aggressively."

He also said that it could take some time for shoppers to take to some of the trendier new brands in the home section, which also include products by Michael Graves. Sephora cosmetics boutiques within Penney stores had a slow start when they were launched in 2006.

He also said he had no plans to introduce more new brands to the home stores for now.

"We've got lots to digest," Ullman said. (Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)



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