Penney’s Hipster Move: Fashion Flair for Arizona

J.C. Penney wants to put Arizona back on Gen Y’s fashion map through a new ad campaign and remake of the $950 million private label.

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Arizona’s new ad campaign.

Photo By WWD Staff

DALLAS— J.C. Penney Co. wants to put Arizona back on Gen Y’s denim fashion map.

For fall, the Plano, Tex.-based retail giant is making an aggressive move to gain market share among shoppers aged 17 to 24 by revving up its private label denim brand’s focus on fast-turn fashion trends.

The company said the shift will put the $950 million brand on a solid growth course.

“There’s a tremendous pressure from Generation Y to offer something that’s new, different and unique,” said Jeff Bergus, design director for Arizona, in an interview. “The brand has not really had a strong identity until now. It certainly had some cool components and neat stuff in it, but it wasn’t focused and fine-tuned. We’re changing all that and really going after the 17- to 24 year-old consumer. We’re showing them that we’re listening to what they have to say and offering them the kind of fashion that they want to wear.”

Private brands are a key part of the 1,020-unit chain’s expansion plans and account for about 40 percent of the company’s $17.7 billion in annual revenues. Penney’s executives refer to their house labels, which also include J.C. Penney Home Collection, St. John’s Bay and Delicates, as “weapons to increase business,” with sales of those brands growing at twice the company average.

To back up the new looks, Penney’s is rolling out an ad campaign this month that romances the Arizona image of blue skies, vintage cars, good friends and good times on the open road, along with a new Web site at and restyled in-store displays that accent outfits instead of items.

The broadcast ad campaign breaks July 25 — on MTV and other programs geared to teen viewers — and runs through Aug. 1 for back-to-school, with the tag line “No Matter Where You Are, You’re Always in Arizona.” Print ads are currently running in select magazines. The campaign was produced by DDB Needham in Chicago and Dallas.

Bergus said the impetus to overhaul Arizona came about after teens told Penney’s in several roundtable discussion groups that the chain was often missing the mark with the assortment and in-store presentation for the Arizona brand, which was introduced in 1988.
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