J.C. Penney marks 120th anniversary with omnichannel campaign

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Penny James
Comedian Melissa Villaseñor plays a leading role in the new J.C. Penney anniversary promotion.

A “Saturday Night Live” star is helping The J.C. Penney Co. Inc. launch its new “Shopping is Back” promotion.

The department store retailer is celebrating its 120th birthday (the company was officially founded on April 14, 1902) with the new integrated campaign, which includes an in-store and online brand refresh, a special sales promotion of 30% off storewide plus for loyalty program members, and an extra $10 bonus reward for every $50 spent through Tuesday, April 12.

In addition, the campaign will feature a series of advertising spots featuring comedian and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Melissa Villaseñor as shopper “Penny James.” The James character is seen throughout video and graphics promoting the retailer’s products and services, with the tagline “Shopping is Back!” The first video spot is currently airing.

There will also be a series of nationwide live events, the “J.C. Penney Cross-Country ‘Shopping is Back!’ Tour.” Each stop on the tour will offer a block party-style celebration with local food vendors, games, music and giveaways.

The company will also team up with nonprofit partners in the communities the tour visits to support its philanthropic efforts to aid under-resourced youth. Event locations and dates are:

  • Torrance, California – May 14
  • Henderson, Nevada – May 21
  • Lone Tree, Colorado – May 28
  • El Paso, Texas – June 4
  • Frisco, Texas – June 11
  • Springfield, Missouri – June 18
  • Schaumburg, Illinois – July 2
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana – July 16
  • Louisville, Kentucky – July 23
  • Buford, Georgia – July 30
  • Whitehall, Pennsylvania – August 6
  • Garden City, New York – August 13

Other efforts J.C. Penney has launched in the past six months to rejuvenate its business include adding a new menswear brand to its private-label portfolio, introducing same-day delivery with DoorDash, adding merchandise from Forever 21 to its in-store and online assortment, and debuting “JCPenney Beauty” shops in 10 of its stores starting in October 2021, with rollouts planned across all Penney stores by 2023.

Marc Rosen, a former Levi Strauss and Walmart executive, joined the company as CEO in October 2021, saying he was “eager to propel the business into its next era and connect with our customers in new ways.”

“The J.C. Penney brand holds an incredibly special place in millions of Americans’ closets, homes and memories. We celebrate this legacy while showing a reinvigorated J.C. Penney brand that expresses our energy and optimism, which we want customers to experience with us,” said Bill Cunningham, VP, marketing, J.C. Penney. “J.C. Penney is transforming itself with innovation and imagination and is ready to get back to connecting with our customers through shopping.”

“The character of Penny James is a playful tribute to our customers and what they love about J.C. Penney. Shopping is back, and it’s time for J.C. Penney to be bold and lively, just like Penny,” said Carl Byrd, VP, creative & brand synergy, J.C. Penney. “We found a dream collaborator in Melissa, who graciously helped bring this unforgettable and endearing representative of our brand to life.”

J.C. Penney operates more than 650 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, as well as an e-commerce site.