By Neil Saunders
The appointment of Jill Soltau as the new CEO of JCPenney is good news for the ailing retailer. JCP has been without leadership for too long, and there is a sense that it has been drifting at a time when it should be capitalizing on the strong consumer economy and making changes necessary to ensure its survival.
Soltau’s deep experience of retail—especially in terms of merchandising—will prove invaluable in turning the retailer around.
Putting an experienced female executive in the top role is a sensible move. One of JCP’s central problems has been its inability to connect with women shoppers, especially in terms of fashion. Soltau will have a far more intuitive understanding of the changes that need to be made than many of those who held the role before her. This, along with her deep experience of retail—especially in terms of merchandising—will prove invaluable in turning the retailer around.
That said, we still have many concerns about JCP. The company is in a relatively weak position financially, does not have much room for maneuver, but needs to make some decisive changes to restore confidence among staff and investors, and to inspire customers. That is a tall order for any new CEO, but with external conditions more favorable than they have been for a long time, Soltau is at least in with a fighting chance.
Neil Saunders is managing director of research firm GlobalData Retail.