No more bad hair days: J.C. Penney aims to give its hair salons a refresh

J.C. Penney is giving its hair salons a makeover in a bid to lure younger customers who it hopes will then stay in the stores to shop.

The retailer, which is the nation's largest operator of salons sharing the same brand name, is collaborating with the editors of InStyle magazine in a licensing partnership that will change the name and look of its salons.

All 850 JCP Salons will be called The Salon by InStyle by 2016. And starting in July, Penney plans to test in 15 of its salons a new look that includes a widened entry so customers shopping the store can see the salon reception area, new furniture and sleek graphics on the walls. The four markets are Miami, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Two of the locations — one located in Dallas, the other in Los Angeles — will get a total renovation that will have a loft feel and include new salon equipment like hair dryers and sinks. The revamped salons will feature accents of golds and browns and have areas like "hair coloring" bars where customers can have consultations with experts. Later, Penney will announce more salons that will get total makeovers. All salons will get at least some updates starting in 2016.

The company declined to say on how much it's spending to makeover the salons, but executives say the salons are a key part of Penney's overall plan to transform its struggling business. The salons, which cater to the over 50-group, are either little known or perceived as dowdy.

But they're important. The salons employ more than 13,500 stylists and assistants, who serve three million clients and offer over 10 million services a year. Salons account for most of the company's services business, which makes up five percent of the company's total annual sales. And a salon customer comes to the store eight times a year and spends twice as much as the average customer, says Amiee Thomas, vice president of Penney's salon services.

Over the past two years, Penney has been hiring stylists and investing in a team of more than 50 artistic design leaders, who rolled out training to stylists in every salon. Under the new deal, InStyle editors will be working with Penney's stylists to identify key trends and will promote them in the salon's styling books. InStyle will market the salon to its 21 million fans including magazine subscribers and social media followers, says Ariel Foxman, editor-in-chief of InStyle.

"We believe the salons are our best kept secrets," Thomas said.


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