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Martha Stewart helps Penney celebrate home department makeover


New York -- J.C. Penney Co. on Thursday took the wraps off its highly anticipated home department in more than 500 stores nationwide. The new department is made up of a collection of branded in-store shops, including Michael Graves Design, MarthaCelebrations, Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler, and Design by Conran. Each brand is presented in a boutique-like setting, with its own distinct look. The spaces range from about 300 sq. ft. to about 800 sq. ft. each.

(See photos)

Penney celebrated the home launch with a party Thursday night in Manhattan. The event drew some of the featured brands’ biggest stars, including hipster designer Jonathan Adler, famous architect Michael Graves and celebrated British designer Sir Terence Conran. But the biggest attraction was domestic diva Martha Stewart, who posed next to her colorful line of themed party goods, and also with Penney CEO Myron “Mike” Ullman. (Stewart, a very focal supporter of former CEO Ron Johnson, showed up despite that fact that she and Penney are still battling Macy’s Inc. over whether the Stewart/Penney partnership violates an earlier agreement Stewart had with Macy’s. A final ruling in the case is due within the next few weeks.)

Penney’s home center revamp was conceived by Johnson, and was a crucial part of his strategy to turnaround the ailing chain. And while Penney under Ullman is clearly putting a lot of distance between itself and Johnson, the home makeover remains crucial to the chain’s success going forward.

In a report by CNBC, JPMorgan retail analyst Matthew Boss said he was impressed by Penney’s new home shops.

“Personally, I was wowed by the stores in terms of the appearance, in terms of the product presentation, and the brands that are actually on the shelves,” he said. “So I think when the consumers see this for the first time they are probably going to be transformed and not believe they are in a J.C. Penney.”

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