JCPenney is scavenging the carcasses of America’s dying retailers

JCPenney is adding toy shops to its stores. JCPenney

First, it was makeup. Then, it was appliances. Now, it’s toys.

JCPenney is diving into new categories and revamping old ones as it fights to remain relevant during one of the the most challenging periods in history for retailers.

The department store chain said Thursday that it plans to open toy shops in all its stores that will feature items like dolls, action figures, race cars, arts and crafts, and board games.

JCPenney also said that it has doubled its online assortment of toys in the last year.

The addition of toy shops to the company’s more than 1,000 stores represents another shift away from from apparel, which has long been JCPenney’s main focus.

The company has also added hundreds of Sephora makeup shops to its stores over the last several years and it recently started selling appliances again — a business long dominated by Sears — after a 33-year-hiatus.

JCPenney executives have said the retailer’s push into appliances has drawn customers away from Sears, which has been closing hundreds of stores over the past several years.


JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison said last year that it has benefitted from the Sears closings in mall locations that it shares with those stores.

“We were in the best position to pick up some of those” customers, Ellison said.

Going forward, as J.C. Penney grows its appliances business, it is expecting to steal even more Sears customers. Sears has been losing market share in home appliances, a category in which it has historically been a strong player.

“As Sears continues to redesign its business model … we believe there will be appliance market share up for grabs,” Ellison said.

Now, the company is trying to pick up business from toy retailers, such as Toys R Us, which saw same-store sales fall more than 4% in the most recent quarter.

But JCPenney isn’t doing much better. The company’s same-store sales fell by a slightly slower rate of 3.5% in the most recent quarter.