JCPenney finds its new CEO at Levi Strauss

Discussion
Marc Rosen, JCPenney’s new CEO - Photos: JCPenney
Oct 27, 2021

JCPenney has a new CEO. The department store retailer announced that Marc Rosen, a 25-year retail industry veteran who most recently served as executive vice president and president of Levi Strauss Americas at Levi Strauss & Co., will join the company effective Nov. 1.

The hiring gives Penney a permanent CEO after having filled the position on an interim basis since January. Penney’s former chief executive Jill Soltau left the retailer on Dec. 31, about a month after the company emerged from bankruptcy proceedings through a sale to Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management.

Stanley Shashou, Simon’s chief investment officer, who served as  interim chief of Penney, has been appointed as executive chairman of the retailer’s board. Mr. Shashoua said in a statement  that Mr. Rosen is joining a company that has focused on stabilizing its business, improving its financial position and setting itself up for success going forward.

“Marc’s significant e-commerce and retail experience makes him the perfect fit to lead the next chapter of the company’s transformation as we work to better serve our customers,” said Mr. Shashoua.

Mr. Rosen led the commercial operations for Levi’s, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. and Denizen brands across all channels in his former role. He is credited with having driven the company’s digital strategy while in the position.

“I have spent my career focused on iconic American retailers and it has given me a unique perspective on the value of heritage brands,” said Mr. Rosen. “Joining at this milestone moment in the company’s history, I am eager to propel the business into its next era and connect with our customers in new ways.”

Penney claims to have made significant progress over the course of 2021, including improving its digital and fulfillment capabilities. The chain has introduced and relaunched 16 private and exclusive national brands and rolled out JCPenney Beauty, its new inclusive beauty experience. Penney claims its efforts to date have helped it “win back customers and gain market share, resulting in current liquidity of $1.5 billion.”

David Simon, CEO of Simon Property Group, said on the company’s second quarter earnings call in August that Penney’s same-store sales were outperforming the chain’s plan and that it did not “have any outstanding balance on their line of credit.” Penney’s sales, he admitted, were still below its pre-pandemic levels.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Marc Rosen a good fit as JCPenney CEO at this moment in time? What do you see as the most significant challenges and opportunities facing JCPenney and Mr. Rosen?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Another very good leader for the company, but it is an uphill battle when you are still trying to find your relevance in the retail sector."
"Marc Rosen appears to be a very strong choice for JCPenney but, at this point, they need much more than a strong leader."
"He certainly seems like a solid choice. But no one can fix JC Penney at this point. Dead brand walking."

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18 Comments on "JCPenney finds its new CEO at Levi Strauss"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Mr. Rosen’s extensive background makes him a good choice, but there is a lot of work to do and the battle may be unwinnable. The biggest challenge Mr. Rosen faces is the same one JCPenney has been struggling with for years – relevancy with consumers. This brand lost it’s luster years ago and it will take a Herculean effort and a good future to turn this around. I’m always hopeful about new leadership, but also realistic about the challenges that lay ahead. This will not be an easy ride.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

JCPenney has a tough hill to climb, as many consumers have already lost hope in the chain. The biggest challenge for JCPenney is to restore confidence in consumers that they are “vibrant” and will be around. The other ongoing challenge is to attract younger customers.

Steve Dennis
BrainTrust

He certainly seems like a solid choice. But no one can fix JC Penney at this point. Dead brand walking.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

Marc Rosen could be exactly what JCPenney needs to propel the retailer into connecting with its customer on a deeper level, which they have already started to implement with the JCP Beauty rollout.

They are taking customer feedback and closing the feedback loop with product assortments that are representative and inclusive. This is a point of difference that not all retailers have.

Taking action is the only way to stay relevant and Marc Rosen could infuse a new way of thinking about the customer with a design leading and innovating perspective that comes from Levi’s.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Again another very good leader for the company, but it is an uphill battle when you are still trying to find your relevance in the retail sector. I hope they find their answers quickly before time runs out on the company.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a great appointment of someone with experience of retail, branding and many other facets of the consumer space. However JCPenney is in a very, very bad place and the amount of work needed to get it back on track should not be underestimated. Indeed, the chain is actually worse than it was when it went into bankruptcy and standards in most stores have deteriorated quite significantly. I wish Mr. Rosen well, but he has a very, very hard road ahead of him and success is not a guaranteed destination.

Scott Norris
Guest

Walked through the Rosedale Mall (Twin Cities) location last week while shopping for a winter jacket, just to see for myself what the store looks like now. Granted, Macy’s wasn’t in great shape and still shockingly spare of inventory. But Penney’s … frankly looked like it had already closed. More staff on the floor than shoppers, no effort to keep what little merchandise they had on hand neat and presentable, bare white walls lit by harsh fluorescent tubes with no visual story to tell. Such a shame.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is exactly the same as my experience. JCP looks like it has given up! When I tweeted some pictures people thought the store was closing down!

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I wish him all the best. It’s a relief to find they went with someone experienced at retail brands and are not trying to teach someone the game of retail while flying the plane. That said, there are a lot of parts missing on the plane to contend with – not least of which is the airstream of loyal customers which has been reduced to a light breeze.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

“Mr. Shashou said in a statement that Mr. Rosen is joining a company that has focused on stabilizing its business, improving its financial position and setting itself up for success going forward.” A similar statement has been made again and again, over the past dozen years while JCPenney has seen a succession of six CEOs; the only difference now is the backing of the Simon group.

The Penney release about Mr. Rosen also mentions this: “Notable portfolio additions include Ryegrass™, Linden Street™, Thereabouts™, Stylus™, and Juicy by Juicy Couture.” Most of these are new private brands in a company that already had too many — and facing competition from Kohl’s additions of Sephora, Calvin Klein, Eddie Bauer and other national brands.

None of this is meant to reflect on Mr. Rosen’s talent and background, but he has his work cut out for him. What is left to try at JCPenney that hasn’t already been tried?

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Most likely too little too late.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Personally, I would have rehired Ron Johnson — but with the benefit of lessons learned from his last go-around. The magnitude of change he was trying to implement is what is now called for, but with a lot more pragmatic view about the role of coupons and sale events. Mr. Johnson recognized the role of “theater” in department stores. But maybe the combination of “theater” and JCP is not in the cards any longer.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

Mr. Rosen’s tenure at Levi Strauss & Co. is a huge plus for the struggling retailer. JCPenney’s relevance in the market remains highly problematic, though, as Mr. Rosen must quickly find ways to reconnect with their customers and re-invigorate the brand effectively. I wish Mr. Rosen well as he faces this Herculean task.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Marc Rosen appears to be a very strong choice for JCPenney but, at this point, they need much more than a strong leader. A good start, for sure, but only a beginning. “…a company that has focused on stabilizing its business, improving its financial position and setting itself up for success going forward…” Sadly, it’s this sort of phrase we hear too often from JCPenney. Nowhere in this statement do we hear anything about the brand finding its identity with customers. Too often we get statements about returning to JCP’s roots to bring back customers. The problem is those customers are long gone. JCP is left with two options – identify why the remaining customers they have continue to buy from them and double down on what those customers want, and two, identify what the brand could mean to everyone else. Launching new private lines is great, but if you ask anyone to name a JCP brand, what answer will you get? If you ask those same people to name a Target brand, they will… Read more »
storewanderer
Guest
6 months 22 days ago

It was tough to find a good choice; most of the good choices are long retired or did not want to get anywhere near JCP.

We will see how this goes.

Maybe the past year and a half has shaken JCP up in a way that it can start fresh in enough ways that it can somehow reinvent itself. The physical HQ was closed and vacated/sold, not clear how much of the HQ staff is still around or has turned over. Stores continue to deteriorate. I guess we will see what happens.

Sears is just about done closing itself and what is left of Sears has little inventory the past year, so JCP can no longer count on a nice ongoing stream of Sears closures to drive traffic into its stores like it has during the tenure of the past 3 CEOs.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I don’t know if anyone can say this person, or any other is the right one to resurrect the stores. It will be a monstrous job. Today the stores are woefully out of inventory. If Mr. Rosen is the retailer it appears he is, I am anxious to watch the enormous turnaround. I am sure he can do it if all parties support his plans. This can be very exciting and rewarding. I’m watching Mr. Rosen and hoping, as I am sure many others are. Leave him alone and let him run. That’s what is needed.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Congrats? Condolences? Not sure which to offer (other, of course, than the mandatory best wishes)
I think most us will take some comfort in him having a retail background — to the extent that we view Levis as a retailer, anyway — but, honestly, I’m thinking even more that all of us realize what JCP needs most is customers.

Ladyimpactohio
Guest
6 months 2 days ago

I have a relative who is a JCP manager. They are certainly trying their best, but are suffering from a lack of help like most other companies. I wouldn’t put all the blame on mismanagement. Before the Covid crisis, I could walk into her store and there would not be an item on the floor or out of place. They are suffering from people not being PAID enough to work, or they’ll find a job that pays a couple dollars more and quit.

Give JCP a year and then revisit.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Another very good leader for the company, but it is an uphill battle when you are still trying to find your relevance in the retail sector."
"Marc Rosen appears to be a very strong choice for JCPenney but, at this point, they need much more than a strong leader."
"He certainly seems like a solid choice. But no one can fix JC Penney at this point. Dead brand walking."

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