Good Thinking

The temporary physical Virtual Store

The temporary physical Virtual Store
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February 14, 2006 We’ve been hearing about the virtual store for many years now, with the hype growing to a crescendo during the first coming of the internet, and peaking just before the tech wreck. Since then, e-commerce has been growing steadily towards inevitable dominance at some point in the distant future. A spectacular initiative from American department store retailing institution J. C. Penney yesterday might cause everybody to rethink how e-commerce and the future of retailing might unfold though. The company will construct a 15, 000-square-foot physical manifestation of the virtual store at One Times Square on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, New York. In our humble opinion, the opening of this temporary virtual store from March 3-26, in which shoppers can purchase the company's full range of merchandise at interactive kiosks, marks a significant development in the history of retail. We believe that traveling virtual superstores could be a part of retailing’s future.

No doubt the clever 104-year-old retailer has thought of these aspects, as the construction of the massive temporary JCPenney Experience store in one of the most expensive pieces of real-estate on the planet, the numerous star-studded special events it will house and the publicity generation alone will cost a packet, not to mention coinciding the whole shebang with the company's exclusive retail sponsorship of the Academy Awards. It’s easily the most expensive and spectacular branding event in the company's history.

Opening March 3, the JCPenney Experience store will be a showcase for its private and exclusive brands, modeled after JCPenney's signature trademark, the “Big Red Box.” Inside, visitors from around the world will find an exclusive assortment from the spring collections of the company's private and exclusive brands. Shoppers will be able to buy everything in the store at interactive kiosks, which will feature all of the 250,000 items available at the company’s web site.

"The JCPenney Experience will be a dramatic statement reflective of the changes taking place at JCPenney," said JCPenney’s CEO, Mike Ullman. "From one of the most visible and visited spots in the world, JCPenney will highlight all that is new at our company. Shoppers will see that we are listening to what they tell us and focusing our brands and assortments to reflect their lifestyles, from trendy and modern to traditional and conservative. They will also experience first-hand the incredible power of, the largest online department store in the world."

Mr. Ullman continued, "Taken together, the full-scale branding campaign we are launching is designed to reinforce for our current customers JCPenney's commitment to offering exciting styles at smart prices in an easy, convenient shopping environment and make clear to new customers that it really is 'all inside' at JCPenney."

The JCPenney Experience store will host a calendar of events in its three weeks of existence. The first will be a star-studded benefit for Broadway Cares; Equity Fights AIDS on March 2. This event will bring together all of JCPenney's designers, as well as its celebrity spokespeople, including LeAnn Rimes, who represents JCPenney Gift Registry, and Def Jam recording artist Rihanna, the face of Miss Bisou, a new juniors line by Bisou Bisou designer Michele Bohbot.

The store coincides with the company's exclusive retail sponsorship of the Academy Awards. In addition to unveiling its spring advertising campaign during the Awards, the company will launch an integrated marketing campaign to showcase the exclusive assortment of brands and merchandise available at JCPenney. This will include broadcast and print advertising as well as an online marketing alliance with AOL/Yahoo, which will allow customers to view the company's TV advertisements online and click and buy the featured merchandise.

J. C. Penney Corporation operates 1,019 JCPenney department stores, is the United States’ largest catalog merchant of general merchandise, and is one of the largest apparel and home furnishings sites on the Internet.

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