J.C. Penney plans major push back into appliance business

J.C. Penney says it's expanding its rollout of major appliances to nearly 500 stores by this fall, or almost half of its stores.

The move comes after a successful test of offering major appliances in such products as washing machines and refrigerators in 22 markets in February.

Penney is looking to rebuild sales, particularly in the home area, after a catastrophic reinvention plan under former CEO Ron Johnson resulted in sales and profits in free fall in 2012 and 2013. Business has been stabilized since then. But revenue has still not returned to the pre-Johnson era.

The move also comes as department stores look to reinvent themselves as they wrestle with growing competition from online leader Amazon.com and from off-price stores like T.J. Maxx.

Penney did not specify which stores would be getting the expanded appliance showrooms. The retailer has two stores in Indianapolis: at Castleton Square mall and at 8752 Michigan Road. It also has area stores at Greenwood Park Mall, the Shops at Perry Crossing in Plainfield and Hamilton Towne Center in Noblesville.

Penney got out of the appliance business in 1983 but the recent pilot program changed its mind about its product mix.

“The response has been outstanding,” CEO Marvin Ellison said in a written statement. “The pilot confirmed that we should not limit our business to apparel and soft home in order to achieve significant revenue growth.”

Stores getting the new appliances will also feature more floor room devoted to window coverings, such as curtains, blinds and shades. Prior to the Great Recession, Penney was the market leader in window-covering sales.

Customers also will be able to shop and buy major appliances on its website later this summer. 

Penney said it also plans to test initiatives with Ashley Furniture to sell more furniture and with Empire Today to sell more installed carpet and flooring.

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