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:
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?
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.