Quality quiz

From a manufacturer’s or buyer’s perspective, which of the following retailers has the greatest cachet?

1. Neiman Marcus
2. Nordstrom’s
3. JC Penney’s

Without a doubt, it’s JC Penney’s. 10 of 10 manufacturers and buyers will say the same thing. This always surprises DEs. If a DE is selling to Neiman’s or Nordstrom’s, I’m always happy, that’s great. If they’re selling to Penney’s however, I am profoundly impressed. Wow.

Well, long before there was such a thing as the Soup Nazi, JC Penney’s has been openly referred to as the “Quality Nazis” (and I mean no disrespect nor intend any dilution of the term “nazi”). If you hear that term in industry circles, everybody knows who you mean. I was happy to see that this month’s issue of Apparel featured JC Penney’s. The article describes how Penney’s is getting leaner (without using that word of course) but unfortunately, they didn’t publish a lengthy side bar that appeared in the print version of the article. The sidebar was entitled “Procurement 101” and went on to explain Penney’s quality certification standards. The article they did publish was kind of boring (about supply chain sourcing and logistics) but I do note with satisfaction that Penney’s seems to be following the lead of Toyota in that they hesitate to adopt technologies until they’re proven. To whit, Penney’s has no plan to adopt RFID technology but they’re “watching it closely”.

Normally I don’t recommend that DEs sell to department stores but Penney’s is an exception. If Penney’s will take your stuff -meaning they certify you as compliant- anybody will buy your stuff. It’s a lot harder to get into Penney’s than it is Neiman’s. I’m not familiar with their complete quality checking system, I can only tell you what I’ve experienced when I worked for a certified supplier. Penney’s sends teams of their people into the plant. I don’t know all they do but in my area, they were pulling patterns and reciprocal styles and comparing them! Now this is gut wrenching. It’s one thing to have a supervisor check your work, but outsiders? What if they didn’t know to add the dimensions of the side panel (sportcoats) to the total girth dimensions? But these guys knew patterns. It was pretty impressive.

Even if you’re certified, you can’t sit on your laurels. Nope, these guys stick you in a rotation and you’ll get audited on a regular basis. They’ve been doing this for years. Now, this is not to say that Penney’s sells the highest quality goods in existence, this means that they certify that their suppliers are consistent and the value of products when compared to price points are top notch. In other words, your talk must match your walk. Per price points, Penney’s has always been the leader. In an era of diminishing retail profit margins, Penney’s boasts an operating profit of 1.6 Billion dollars (up 22.5%).

If anybody happens to have access to a Penney’s compliance manual, I’d love to see it.

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  1. christy fisher says:

    I was a line worker (in the early 80s) for 2 manufacturing companies that did work for Penney’s: Coqui Manufacturing (they did the Palmettos line) and Tropical Garment Manufacturing (They did mens)-both in Tampa Florida.
    They ran a tight ship back then and took no slack in QC.
    It was a great experience. If anyone out there is down in the Tampa area, perhaps they can find an “in” to the compliance info.

  2. Esther says:

    I have worked with JCPenney technical designers as part of a private label program. It was intense but worth it! And since I worked on private label programs for other companies, JCP’s program was the most intelligent and comprehensive. The day the quality auditor comes in is stressful because they have the power to literal cancel or hold an order!

    Unfortunately I no longer have access to the JCPenney quality manual. I will say I did incorporate many of their quality standards into my own work. The approval process was rigorous and expensive.

    Other companies, like Wal-mart or Kmart tried to mimic JCP, but they weren’t quite there. Their fitting standards were a little strange and some quality control standards were extreme.

    I would be happy to provide more details for those interested.

  3. Thomas Cunningham says:

    I saw an old (1980 or 19990s) consumer reports story that judged men’s suits on quality of manufacturing in a blind test — according to that story, Penney’s had the best-made suit in the U.S. — better than all the “top-end” manufacturers selling (at the time) for hundeds of dollars more.

  4. Robyn says:

    I recently worked with a company who did a program for Penneys, it was one of the toughest we had ever had, from approval process to shipping, it was so detailed. I had my pattern approved on the 1st fitting, the salesperson said that they had never seen that ever happen.

  5. babau says:

    Hii ..quote: (“If anybody happens to have access to a Penney’s compliance manual, I’d love to see it”)
    jcppc International .com Pdf Import Supplier Manual (1.2MB/34pg) https://vendor.jcpenney.com/wps/wcm/connect/7ed47c80426dec8fa7c3af5e204ce6ed/import-manual.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&ContentCache=NONE
    ..@ : https://vendor.jcpenney.com/wps/portal/!ut/p/b0/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKdLEK8jb18DY2cfM3MDTyDLc29nF2MDIKDzfULsh0VAVPo_dk!/


    [PDF] (835KB/65pg) http://somo.nl/publications-en/Publication_1675/at_download/fullfile
    Manual – Somo
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    Manual: Codes and practices of 5 garment buyers in Africa. 14. 1.9. Annex a. The JC Penney Supplier Legal Compliance Program. 12. Extracts from sections …

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