- Basketball great and rapper Shaquille O'Neal will star in a television campaign for J.C. Penney's Big & Tall men's apparel, the company told Retail Dive in an email.
- O'Neal himself teased the effort Sunday night on Twitter during coverage of the National Basketball Association playoffs, tweeting, "Ready to flex on em tonight. Got something big with @jcpenney coming for you guys, catch me on @NBAonTNT."
- O'Neal in March was first announced as the retailer's exclusive style ambassador for its men's Big & Tall business, and this fall he will release his own Shaquille O'Neal XLG line as part of that effort.
There are few superstars quite so recognizable as "big" and "tall" than 15-time NBA All-Star and all-around legend O'Neal, making this partnership a slam dunk for J.C. Penney.
The retailer needs the assist. In March, the company reported net sales fell 0.3% to $12.51 billion, mainly because of store closures in 2017, as same-store sales rose 0.1%.
Penney saw a nice holiday sales bump as consumers lifted most boats, but 2017 was centered on closing stores and slashing jobs. (The retailer announced 360 job cuts in March, on top of 670 jobs eliminated as it shut down a distribution center earlier in the year.) J.C. Penney has been under pressure for some time, and it closed out the year with a shakeup in its executive offices, letting go of longtime chief merchant John Tighe (and axing that position completely) in order to "streamline decision-making and promote greater agility within its merchandise buying teams."
Last year, the company attempted a drastic reset and swept away much of its women's inventory as it warned of a critical sales slump in the third quarter. CEO Marvin Ellison said of the third quarter that gross margins and earnings "exceeded our expectations," and even apparel sales improved. The retailer apparently sees big potential in the big-and-tall segment, considering the tie-up unveiled last year with men's apparel subscription service Bombfell.
J.C. Penney has a strong history of serving the special sizes customer, particularly the big-and-tall shopper, in stores and online, J.C. Penney spokesman Joey Thomas told Retail Dive in an email, noting that the Big & Tall category is "one of the fastest growing market segments in the industry."