J.C. Penney finally finds talent

J.C. Penney’s new veteran CEO is now tasked with giving the company a successful ‘turnaround.’

J.C. Penney brings in a veteran retail leader in hopes that she will ‘turnaround’ the company with her prior revitalization of branding and product assortment experience.

The company announced the appointment of Jill Soltau as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors, effective Oct. 15, 2018. Soltau is a 30-year retail veteran who most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of JoAnn Stores, a fabric and crafts retailer, after serving as President of Shopko Stores.

"Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates," said Paul J. Brown, JCPenney Board Director and Chairman of the Search Committee. "As we looked for the right person to lead this iconic Company, we wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit. Not only is she an established Chief Executive Officer and former chief merchant, her depth of experience in product development, marketing, e-commerce and store operations have been an important basis for the turnaround work she spearheaded at prior companies."

In July, Soltau was credited with rebranding Jo-Ann fabric store, to JoAn, along with bring its in-store experience into the 21st century by adding technology and shopping tools, such as apps.

Soltau was recently recognized by Retail Leader as one of retail's top women leaders. Under her leadership, JoAnn underwent a revitalization of branding and product assortment, expanded digital and omnichannel capabilities, forged partnerships with Girl Scouts of the USA and 4-H Council, and launched a new program called Joann+. The multifaceted program, which offers bulk pricing, direct shipping and discounts, is designed for high-volume customers, including businesses, nonprofit and community organizations, and entrepreneurs.

Before JoAnn Stores, Soltau spent eight years at Shopko, most recently as President after serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer. She joined Shopko Stores in 2007 earning various executive positions of increasing responsibility to include Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager over apparel and accessories. Prior to her tenure at Shopko, Ms. Soltau held several senior level positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management at Sears and Kohl's, after starting her career with Carson Pirie Scott, which was later acquired by Saks Inc.

"JCPenney is a quintessential American brand with a strong and loyal customer base, and I couldn't be prouder to lead such an iconic retailer," said Soltau. "I am highly passionate about the customer and I spent my entire career focused on the needs of a value-based consumer by researching, understanding and meeting her expectations for style, quality and inspiration. Every position I've held has prepared me for this role, and I couldn't be more excited to meet the talented and hard-working JCPenney teams and get to work."