JCPenney is quitting the appliance business as it weathers an identity crisis

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JCPenney is quitting the appliance business as it weathers an identity crisis

JCPenney

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Appliances at a JCPenney store.

  • JCPenney is quitting the appliance business after bringing these items back to stores in 2016.
  • Major appliances will be pulled from all of its stores at the end of the month.

  • In a statement to customers, the company said the decision had been made "to better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance and drive profitable growth."

JCPenney is quitting the appliance business after bringing it back just three years ago.

The department store chain announced on Wednesday that it would be pulling major appliances from stores at the end of this month. Furniture will also be dropped from stores and will only be available to buy online and in select Puerto Rico stores. The Dallas Morning News first reported the news.

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JCPenney brought back appliances in 2016 after a 33-year hiatus. This was a key initiative of former CEO Marvin Ellison, who was hoping to cash in on the collapse of rival department store Sears, attract first-time millennial home buyers, and shift focus away from its declining apparel sales.

JCPenney said that appliance sales were the strongest area of growth for the company in 2017. Home department sales accounted for 15% of the company's sales in 2017. This was up from 13% in 2016 and 12% in 2015.

But in its statement on Wednesday, JCPenney said the decision had been made "to better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance and drive profitable growth."

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While appliances may have helped to create an uptick in sales, retail experts said that it wasn't enough for long-term growth.

Read more: Retail experts warn that JCPenney's new CEO may not be able to fix the company's massive problems

"Throwing in a new category to pump some new sales into the system isn't a long-term strategy because you are still not understanding what the customer wants from you," Kathy Gersch, executive vice president of the consultancy firm Kotter, told Business Insider in 2018.

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Gersch said that the biggest mistake the company has made is in trying to be all things to all people and in doing so, creating a shopping environment that wasn't right for anyone.

"I think they have had so many iterations of themselves with the last few CEOs trying so many different things and speaking to different types of customers that I don't think the customer knows what to expect from JCPenney anymore," she said.

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Now with Jill Soltau - JCPenney's recently appointed CEO - at the helm, analysts are hoping that the retailer will be better equipped to understand and serve its core customer: the middle-aged mom.

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