JCPenney Plays Gender Card, Launches Home Automation Biz with Pro Installation – CEPro

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).

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.

RELATED: Target, Sears and the Trouble with Home Automation at Retail

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

Sears, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples … They’ve all attempted similar home-automation efforts over the past decade, mostly with limited success.

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.”

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