JCP finally names a new CEO

Just a few days after JCPenney held its “analysts’ day” in New York — and left unanswered the question of succession planning — it announced yesterday the appointment of Marvin Ellison, the senior store executive at Home Depot, to succeed Mike Ullman next year. Here’s my comment from today’s RetailWire discussion:

There is some comparison being made between Mr. Ellison and Brian Cornell, the new CEO at Target. Mr. Cornell was also praised for his operational background (especially given Target’s data breach and missteps in Canada). But he also identified merchandise categories that will help Target the brand differentiate itself from more “consumables”-oriented competitors.

Yes, Mr. Ellison is faced with some operational challenges — and, in particular, he needs to attack the store count and bloated SGA more aggressively. (This was a big unanswered question at the JCP analysts’ meeting last week.) And “blocking & tackling” becomes more important in an omnichannel environment, with competitors like Amazon who are experts at logistics.

But, at the end of the day, any new leadership at JCP needs to redefine the meaning of the brand without repeating the mistakes of the Ron Johnson era. Right now, JCP is in an “error correction” mode, but turning back the clock to 2010 can only get you so far. Let’s see if Mr. Ellison is up to the task.

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