JC Penney and Mango: Opposites Attract or Divorce Eminent?

JC Penney and Mango, a fashion match made in heaven?  Hmm, lets break this down:

A. Customer Demographics: Penny’s caters to cheap middle age customers who in the end, like nothing more than getting a good deal 4 times a year when they are forced to purchase new slacks for work, a new comforter or sensible walking shoes.  Mango, on the other hand, is an international success in fast fashion because it is caters to urban, 20-somethings who include popping into the store at least once a week to see what new trend is being knocked off or $39.99.  Mango’s business platform is the same as Zara’s- replenish so frequently with new merchandise and keep prices low enough that customers buy frequently and at full price.  Call me a merchandising genius, but I am not getting that these two demographics are in anyway similar or even compatible.  Need further proof?  Take a look at the marketing of each.

For Fall 2010, Ms. Scarlett Johansson is classy, trend-driven perfection in Mango’s ad campaign:

Then, we have JC Penney which apparently is focusing on basics for back to school.  Sigh.. I have nothing positive to say about this from a “trendy or urban point of view”:

B. A Win Win Proposition? Yikes- I get why JC Penney wants to appeal to a different demographic and grow its business while reinventing the brand, but what is Mango getting out of this other than a distribution partner?  This really is a brand mismanagement error if I have ever seen one.  Mango is a purveyor of trend and relevance and is pretty much a blank canvas BECAUSE it changes product so often.  Nothing is permanent, it is ever-changing, allowing the customer to decide who Mango is for her on an individual basis.  JC Penney on the other hand is quite well known for its staid, classic American (read boring) apparel at good prices.  Although it has made strides in the past with collaborations with Charlotte Ronson and Kimora Lee Simmons, the national fashion tide has not fully embraced the concept as it has with Macy’s and its new Material Girl line designed by Madonna’s daughter Lourdes (with ads featuring Taylor Momsen from TV’s Gossip Girl):

C. In-store Merchandising- Have you stepped into a JCP recently?  They are still large stores, with beige carpet and a completely 80’s vibe.  The one good thing I can say is that the merchandising of the MNG by Mango section is a MAJOR improvement:

Conclusion:  Although in principle the marriage of MGN for Mango and JCP makes sense in the way an arranged marriage makes sense (stronger together than individually), the takeaway is that the Mango customer just isn’t going to go to JCP to go shopping. The uncool factor is a tad too high and the awareness of the Mango brand is zilch outside of the major US cities where it has stores, so no one is panting for the collection to hit stores the way the die-hard fashionistas do for the designer collaborations that hit H&M.  After all, what trendy urbanite is going to wear this?

Yeah, that is what I thought.

FFFT (Fashion Food for Thought):  This marriage of convenience is headed for a divorce.   The real issue is why JC Penney had to go to Spain to find the right design partner to encourage these young spenders into their stores.  Is there no local design talent who can help create change from within?  This should be a major clue to leading design schools such as Parsons, FIT and SCAD that they need to find a way to churn out graduates that answer the current market needs.


2 responses to “JC Penney and Mango: Opposites Attract or Divorce Eminent?

  1. I actually think that this is a great mix. I normally can’t afford Mango and hopefully this joining with JCP will make the clothing more accessible to me and others who can’t afford such lines. As for JCP, as a 20-something who teaches college in NYC (born and bred by the way), JCP has actually stepped up its game and I find a lot of trendy pieces for excellent prices. People ask me where I get my clothes and are surprised when they hear I get them from JCP. As for the decor, I don’t go shopping because of how the store looks (who cares? as long as the roof isn’t caving in) and don’t get me started on trendy urbanites who shop at “vintage stores” whose owners go to the salvation army to buy cheap clothes, the same clothes I donated because they don’t fit me anymore from guess where- JCPenney and mark up the price 30 times for these “smart” trendy urbanites. There’s more to smart fashion than image and labels- you have to look beyond them.

    • Angie, thanks for your comment. What trendy collections at JCP are you talking about? The I heart Ronson, Olsenboye, Nicole Miller and Kimora Lee Simmons lines have done moderately well, but they are all designer/celebrity collaborations which many argue is what draws attention, and customers, into the store. In the case of Mango, outside of the metro areas of NYC, California, Texas, Chicago and now Washington DC where the chain has boutiques, few people have even heard of the Spanish brand. So, what will lead the “trendy urbanite” in non-urban areas into the 75 stores where the brand will launch and then the 600 it has planned for its expansion by Fall 2011? NYC is a very concentrated market with a demographic that may lend very well to the collaboration, but what about the smaller markets? Additionally, Mango as a brand is most well known as a fast fasjion retailer, offering sharp designs at affordable prices. So in this case, the price point isn’t that much lower, but the design quotient really is. Thoughts?

      I really enjoyed your post and would love to have you continue the dialogue!

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