UPDATE: JCPenney Plays Gender Card, Launches Home Automation Biz and Pro Installation
Capitalizing on its large female customer base, JCPenney is the latest big-box brand to get into home automation with new “Home Services,” featuring Samsung SmartThings and and other smart-home systems. [UPDATE: JCP is not installing the smart-home equipment, just the other five Home Services categories.]
IMPORTANT UPDATE: JCPenney responded to this story, clarifying that the Samsung SmartThings home automation hub and other smart-home devices were not part of the new Home Services installation initiative, despite being included in a press release about JCP installation services. That press release is reproduced below.
PR manager Sara Holland writes: "I was reading your story and just wanted to clarify that smart home is a unique category where we will not be providing professional service or installation. Instead, we’re partnering with the industry’s leading brands, including Samsung, to provide a compelling assortment of easy, DIY home automation products for lighting, home monitoring, thermostats, doorbells, entertainment and more that customers can install themselves."
CE Pro has made modest edits to the original article, while still highlighting some of the important challenges of smart-home installations on a national level. -- JJ
Of all the big-box brands getting into the home automation business, JCPenney is not one of the likelier players.
But here we are. The retailer of low-cost clothes, bedding, makeup, jewelry, major appliances and other mass-market items is now promoting smart-home products and installation services.
The offerings are part of JCPenney’s new Home Services group, which dispatches third-party contractors to “provide turn-key services” for HVAC, bathroom remodeling, window coverings, water systems and awnings, as well as “easy-to-install smart home devices.”
In a press release announcing the initiative, JCPenney cites Samsung as a hardware partner, noting the company’s SmartThings hub and SHaaS (smart home as a service) platform enable consumers to “control and automate lighting, cameras, thermostats, door locks and more.”
The products will be installed by third-party contractors, but it’s unclear on the smart-home front how JCPenney plans to enroll and dispatch these service providers (more info when it becomes available). [Update: not the smart-home products, just the other categories in Home Services.]
It’s not like partner Trane on the HVAC front, where thousands of qualified contractors are readily available to bid and install cookie-cutter jobs.
In the smart home, professional installers must be knowledgeable in a wide range of subsystems – and certified/licensed to install them.
For its part, Samsung launched a service in late 2014 providing installation services for SmartThings hubs and the connected devices, including locks and light switches.
For this initiative, Samsung “partnered with the second largest provider of home warranty services in the US, Cross Country Home Services, to make it easier than ever for anyone to create a smart home that matches their unique needs.”
The manufacturers says CCHS has a network of more than 40,000 licensed technicians for the task.
If JCP isn’t using CCHS, it could be utilizing one of several companies like Installs Inc. or Installernet that provide smart-home services through a national network of providers, whether their own employees or third-party contractors.
Interestingly, former JCP CEO Ron Johnson founded Enjoy.com in 2015, offering low-cost delivery and installation of select smart-home products.
At this time, no information about smart-home solutions is available on the new JCPenney Home Services website, but users are welcome to order water-softening and air-purification products from RainSoft.
The services will be launched through about 100 stores in San Antonio, San Diego, and Tampa, Fla.
Attention Female Shoppers
How can we expect JCPenney to succeed?
For starters, there is little risk in the initiative, as the retailer won’t carry much stock and isn’t employing its own service providers (unlike Amazon, for instance, which uses company employees for smart-home installs).
As Fortune puts it, “Penney is essentially renting out its space to these suppliers and service providers, and taking a cut of their sales.”
But who would shop at JCPenney for home automation?! Women. That’s the plan at least.
In its press release, JCP explains:
There is a tremendous opportunity to capture additional revenue and minimize our dependence on apparel by catering our services to female homeowners who represent over 70 percent of our loyal customer base, and make the primary decisions regarding any home renovations," said Marvin Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer of JCPenney. "These are categories that JCPenney offered in its assortment many years ago, and we believe the timing is right to re-enter home services in order to acquire available market share and differentiate our business from our traditional competitors and pure e-commerce retailers." …
And this: “The Company is leveraging her [the customer’s] confidence in JCPenney to deliver fast and efficient improvements from a retail brand she has long trusted to furnish her family's home.”
UPDATE: JCPenney Press Release
JCPenney Accelerates Its Expansion in Home Services by Testing Replacement and Remodeling Programs
Test stores feature service displays for HVAC, bathroom remodeling, home water solutions and more
PLANO, Texas – (March 13, 2017) – As homeowners continue to invest a larger percentage of their disposable income on home upgrades, JCPenney [NYSE: JCP] is capitalizing on the strong housing market by launching JCPenney Home Services™ this month. By partnering with the industry’s leading manufacturers and service providers, such as Samsung and Trane®, JCPenney Home Services is planning to test six programs in select markets to establish its relevance and appeal among shoppers. These programs will provide turn-key services for heating and cooling systems, bathroom remodeling, quick ship and installed blinds, whole home water solutions and awnings, as well as easy-to-install smart home devices.
“With the resurgence of the housing market, consumers are spending more than $300 billion annually to upgrade their homes since nearly two-thirds of the nation’s homes are over 30 years old.* There is a tremendous opportunity to capture additional revenue and minimize our dependence on apparel by catering our services to female homeowners who represent over 70 percent of our loyal customer base, and make the primary decisions regarding any home renovations,” said Marvin Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer of JCPenney. “These are categories that JCPenney offered in its assortment many years ago, and we believe the timing is right to re-enter home services in order to acquire available market share and differentiate our business from our traditional competitors and pure e-commerce retailers.”
Each program will be presented as an informative, compact display located within the home department in approximately 100 stores this spring, with services and marketing varying by location. The Company has also launched a digital storefront at jcpenneyhomeservices.com, where users can shop the range of professional services offered and schedule an in-home consultation. An authorized contractor will then determine the scope of the job and provide an estimate for the total cost. JCPenney will introduce a JCPenney Home Services credit card this summer, enabling customers to take advantage of attractive promotional financing offers.
Established homeowners investing in older homes look to nationally recognized, trusted brands to help with their home improvement plans, which is why JCPenney has chosen to partner with some of the leading providers in each industry for installation and service. Customers will have the peace of mind that their project is completed to their total satisfaction, as these brands employ authorized installers who are experienced, licensed and insured. The Company is leveraging her confidence in JCPenney to deliver fast and efficient improvements from a retail brand she has long trusted to furnish her family’s home.
“JCPenney has the unique competitive advantage of a strong female customer base who has a vision for the home upgrade she wants, and will research various options and companies that offer a high level of quality and service. Much like our successful return to major appliances, we will pursue these new home services initiatives using the same multimarket test-and-learn approach,” Ellison added. “Home services presents a low-risk opportunity to drive sales with minimal investment in inventory and capital resources since we are partnering with the industry’s leading providers for service and installation.”
Living Smarter at Home
Smart home technology is surging in popularity as consumers are finding more convenience, safety and security in connected devices, as well as discovering energy savings with automation. One-third of U.S. homes have at least one connected device today and within four years, household penetration is expected to increase up to 60 percent.**
JCPenney has chosen to pilot a compelling selection of smart home technology in select stores this spring. A unique category addition to the home department, JCPenney has partnered with the industry’s leading brands like Samsung to provide simple smart home automation. With Samsung SmartThings, consumers can control and automate lighting, cameras, thermostats, door locks and more, from the iOS or Android SmartThings app or supported voice assistants. By offering shoppers the most intelligent technology available, JCPenney is helping to make customers’ homes smarter, safer and more comfortable.
JCPenney Home Services complements the soft and hard home furnishings available at JCPenney, including major appliances, furniture and flooring. A popular destination for ready-made curtains, blinds, shades and decorative hardware, JCPenney has also offered custom design and installation of in-home window treatments for nearly 60 years. This service is available today in more than 350 locations.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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