An Open Letter to JCPenney

Dear Mr. Tysoe,

It’s my understanding that, as the chairman of the board at JCPenney, your job is to ensure the company makes money for its shareholders. So I’m hoping you can explain to me why when I visited the JCPenney at Marketplace Mall in Rochester, New York, this weekend, the plus-size department was gone.

As I wandered around the Juniors and Womens departments, struggling to find anything in my size, I ran into a helpful and friendly salesperson who informed me that the plus sizes weren’t gone, but had been moved. Upstairs. Next to housewares.

For a moment, I was simply grateful that you hadn’t removed all plus sizes from the store and made them available only online, like so many other stores. But even though you still carry plus-sizes in store, moving the department upstairs sends the message that you don’t want plus-size women to be seen shopping in your store. It makes it seem like your company is ashamed to carry these sizes. It sends the message that you care more about the money in the pockets of the straight-sized women who walk in your doors. That doesn’t make sense. Here’s why:

An estimated 68% of American women wear size 16 and up. That’s a lot of women. Tens of millions of women, with literally billions of dollars to spend. According to Forbes:

…as of 2016, the women’s plus-size market ($21.4 billion) had reached less than half of its potential ($46 billion).

Wouldn’t your stakeholders would be thrilled if you announced a new initiative that could bring in some of those billions of dollars? It would be so easy! Stop hiding the plus sizes. Put them front and center, right when your customers walk in the front door. Make the layout of the department as attractive, inviting, and fashionable as the other women’s clothing departments. Invest in plus-size mannequins, and don’t clip the clothing in the back to make everything look smaller. Feature plus-size models in the front of your catalogues and marketing pieces.

In short: Treat your plus-size customers like the key demographic they truly are.

Your job is to make money for JCPenney’s shareholders. This is how to do it.