June 3, 2013  ·  culture  ·  design

Don't you die on us, J.C. Penney

On the surface, the steps taken by J.C. Penney's new management team seemed like common-sense measures to wrench the moribund retailer into the modern era and position itself as a competitor to Target: better clothes, modernized stores, honest pricing. A year and a half later, CEO Ron Johnson is gone and SVP and reigining Internet menswear style cliché Nick Wooster has bailed, leaving everyone scratching their heads over how sales could have plummeted so precipitously quarter after quarter. Could they really have alienated that many sales-junkie seniors in their attempts to appeal to younger buyers?

The Dockers and Hush Puppies are back in force, and the Cheap Stylish Clothing Experiment may be over, but JCP still has a role to serve as a democratizing factor for home design. For the time being, at least, there are still three great reasons to shop there:
  • Sir Terence Conran. The revered British designer and author's collection of furniture and housewares includes some really, really nice pieces including some lovely solid wood case goods. If things continue to go badly at JCP some panicked executive may decide that the customer base will never drop $2,900 on a Conran sectional sofa, but here's hoping Conran's lamps, textiles and accessories aren't lost in the purge.

  • Michael Graves. Graves' work, ever affordable and focused on ergonomics, is known for its playful elements and lovely small details. Most of the JCP collection would be equally at home in MoMA's shop. You could buy all of your gifts for design-enthusiast friends here, which is something you'd never expect from Penney's.

  • Bodum. Not the biggest collection, but one that includes many of their classic pieces including the small double-walled glasses and mugs along with ergonomic kitchen tools. The French Press and espresso glasses are highlights.

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