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Parsons the New School for Design: YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund First Round Scholar Winner Fall 2014


Today’s dynamic retail landscape has left many companies struggling to retain relevancy. So non-profit YMA FSF asked: How can JCPenney reinvent itself and reach a younger customer base: the Millennials?


• Planning and implementing a new business strategy.

The retail landscape has morphed dramatically during the past few years. The YMA FSF non-profit challenged students to rescue JCPenney, a brand which has struggled to adapt to these shifts. We were asked to propose a new strategy for the company and counteract the pitfalls of ex-CEO Ron Johnson.

Industry & Customer Omnichannel retailing, the Millennial takeover. A CAPRICIOUS SYSTEM.

Johnson’s Reign

His successes and failures. TOO MUCH, TOO FAST, TOO SOON.


A New Logo

Packaging everything together. BE BRIEF BUT CONVINCING.

Fresh but familiar. “EMBRACE” BY JCP.

A New Collection

For the young and careerdriven. AFFORDABLE EXCLUSIVITY.


Attending the awards dinner. HARD WORK PAYS OFF.

A general objective: How can the firm capture and retain Millennials?

Specific requirements: consumer profile, SWOT analysis, new brand name, sales plan, product assortment, promotional campaign...

This was NOT just about the numbers.

It required looking beyond financial reports and thinking for a team of hybrid minds: a designer, marketer, etc. The ability to span different worlds is a rare, invaluable skill.

As one of the world’s oldest and largest department store chains, JCPenney is a wellknown retailer in the fashion industry. But since its 1900 origins, the company has arguably lost its way. To be sure, it wasn’t just the pitfalls of Johnson’s Reign which led JCP so astray. I first had to Assess the possible Industry & Customer nuances which contributed to its struggles.

“To do all in our power to pack the customer’s dollar full of value, quality, and satisfaction.”5 This was but one of the seven guiding principles set by founder James Cash Penney. But given new Industry & Customer conditions, is this strategic premise unsuitable for today’s retail environment?

The Rise of Omnichannel

Retail’s gone digital, 24/7, and seamless. How will this affect JCP’s brick-and-mortar strategies? What opportunities is it missing out on?

The Rise of Millennials

Connected, adventurous, and ethnically diverse. How can JCP reach such a demanding consumer segment? What can be done instore and online to enhance their shopping experiences?

The Ron

former head of Johnson became

Who is Ron Johnson?

retail operations JCPenney’s new

at Apple, Inc. CEO in 2012.

During Johnson’s Reign, he introduced various changes in hopes of transforming JCP into “America’s favorite store”: a different logo, a new pricing strategy, and brand-dedicated in-store boutiques. I argue that it was not the radicality of such concepts where Johnson fell short, but his neglection to first test them out and understand the JCP customer. In fact, had they been revised, rolled out more gradually, and crafted to better capitalize upon JCP’s core competencies, his strategies held significant potential

Johnson’s Innovations

Bold ideas, but poor execution? Customers confused by new logo and shift from coupons to everyday low pricing. Joe Fresh “store-within-a-store” boutiques prove successful.

The Public Attacks

Too stuck in the Apple mindset? Numerous news outlets chronicle Johnson’s mistakes, while consumers turn to social media to complain.

Two critical pieces our application had to have were A New Logo and A New Collection for the brand. This was how the competition asked us to be both right- and left-brained thinkers - to Devise a proposal by seeing in numbers and in pixels.

What exactly makes a company logo great? It has to be simple but unique... timeless but adaptable... etc., etc. With a very limited graphic design background, coming up with A New Logo for JCPenney which captures such dichotomies was a major challenge for me.

The new logo’s patriotic colors project the firm’s century-old American legacy. The square alludes to the company’s 2011 logo. Finally, the half circle represents the worldly values of the Millennial consumer. The word “Embrace” will communicate the firm’s strong interest in “embracing” Millennials as a new core client group. Once this message takes hold in the marketplace, the label can then be simplified to an “e”, a letter which can evolve to capture other linguistic connotations - “environmentalism”, “exclusivity”, “esteem”, “economical”, “expression”, “experience”, etc. Explanation The reasoning behind my design.

The results of various

Final Logo iterations.

- Rosaline Hsieh6

Inspirational Outings

No business analysis is complete without examining rivals: Visiting JCP and competitor Macy’s to find collection ideas.

The desire for a good work-life balance - given this chief takeaway from research on the Millennial consumer, A New Collection from the brand would have to let wearers transition effortlessly from day to night, from work to play.

Assortment Plan

Versatile career-wear staples and accessories - perfect for the busy Millennial.

All in

about the numbers business courses


using set

6-Month Sales Plan

what I reasonable

learned goals.

Two things to Submit: first, the Application; then, a happy and huge “YES!� to attend the celebratory awards dinner organized for the winning scholars.

Given the Application’s 14-page limit, I admit that packaging all my work together felt at times the most difficult part of the entire process. Summarizing all of my research in a succinct yet persuasive write-up... bringing in the stats to support my proposal... organizing an Appendix section... making sure that the entire dossier flowed from start to finish... Indeed, the experience taught me how to be a good critic of my own work.

SWOT Analysis

Adopting a macro-level perspective would an outside analyst tell JCP’s


Presentation’s key - opening with a warm, visual greeting to readers and an overview of my brief’s format.

how story?

YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund

Since 1937, the non-profit YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund has advanced the fashion industry by helping students pursue careers in design, merchandising, retailing and business.

A huge “YES!” (and sigh of relief) when receiving the invite to the awards dinner. A great way to celebrate months of hard work, to meet students from other universities who share my same interests in fashion, and to absorb the wisdoms of the industry’s elite.

The Memorable Night

Clockwise from top: Designer Tamara Mellon shares words of advice; myself with my mentor, Dean Stadel; fellow Parsons student Paul Kim secures a $30,000-round win; excited scholars enjoy wellearned applause; host Linda Fargo offers warm congratulations.

JCPenney: Embrace  

"JCPenney: Embrace." Process. Date completed: Fall 2014. Brief: YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund - 2014 Case Competition Response. Summary of th...