Advancing its years-long effort to revamp its troubled women's apparel offer, J.C. Penney on Monday introduced another new private label, Ryegrass, available in 400 stores and online.
The assortment includes blouses, dresses, skirts, denim, shorts, vests, and jackets in sizes XS to 3X and 2 to 24W in stores. Sizes 2 to 30W are available online, according to a company press release.
Ryegrass is the fifth new women's private brand introduction in the past six months, following the debut of its Stylus leisure apparel brand last fall and three new swim brands this spring, the company said. Penney has also recently refreshed existing brands a.n.a. denim, Xersion activewear and Liz Claiborne.
A few years ago, J.C. Penney did what any retailer interested in success with private labels might do: hired a merchandiser from Target — the master of the space with several billion-dollar brands. Since 2019, Michelle Wlazlo, who spent three years on Target's merchandising team, has been the struggling department store's chief merchant.
The rehabilitation of Penney's women's offer has been a long time coming. Ryegrass's pretty, flowy garments may be arriving at a good moment, with indications that, after a year being shut in wearing sweats, people are interested in dressing up again. Macy's is among the retailers reporting that demand for more fashionable clothing, even dresses, is up.
This collection in particular raises the bar for Penney's women's portfolio, Wlazlo said in a statement, adding that it "sets the tone for JCPenney's view on approachable, luxurious apparel and commitment to high-quality style at a tremendous value."
But in other ways the timing is off, perhaps due to supply chain issues, other pandemic-related delays or miscalculation, according to retail and apparel merchandising consultant Brian Kelly.
"Ryegrass is like the first card they're trying to put down to see if, in fact, anyone will rise to this idea of returning to looking pretty, feeling better about yourself, getting a little dressed up," Kelly said by phone. "There's some indication that people are doing that, but some people are spending that excess money at either Ulta or Sephora. They should have been out in time for Easter, it should have been out in time for Mother's Day, when there is a spike in the purchase of the merchandise category."