Originally created 07/13/97

Retailer targets black women



DALLAS -J.C. Penney plans for former Dynasty star Diahann Carroll to promote a new celebrity signature line of clothes, a move the company calls an industry first for a black woman.

J.C. Penney has long tailored its merchandise to demographics and now is aggressively advertising products specifically for minority customers. The Diahann Carroll line will be offered in flattering colors for nonwhite women over 35.

"We found we do very well with colors such as brown, pumpkin, gold tones, that whole family of colors," said Penney fashion segment manager Beverly Anderson.

Ms. Carroll, an actress and singer whose credits include the TV show Julia, will promote the line along with black community leaders. The collection will be available in September at 160 of Penney's 1,230 stores.

The line expands the department store's collection of clothing aimed at minorities, a niche Sears Roebuck and other retailers have increasingly targeted.

"I think you're seeing all the major retailers are attempting to get a bigger chunk of the ethnic market," said Joe Ronning, an analyst for Brown Brothers Harriman. "The bigger companies, the ones you would think would be the slowest to respond, are moving in that direction."

The driving force behind the marketing is demographics. Blacks account for 32.3 million, or 12.7 percent of the population, but the U.S. Census Bureau expects the black population to grow to 40.1 million by 2010, or 13.4 percent of the population.

The Diahann Carroll collection is the first celebrity signature line by a black woman, according to the chain, but it's not the first ethnic marketing venture for J.C. Penney. The company also offers its Smiles Fashions' Nefertiti Collection, featuring African prints in black and white combinations and orange backgrounds.

The chain has marketed specifically to black women for the past five years by creating a special Fashion Influences catalog and opening trendy boutiques under the same name.

The company has also targeted Hispanics with a clothing line under designer Sandra Salcedo's name that has seen in Northern California and the Texas areas of San Antonio, El Paso and Houston, Ms. Anderson said. The designer is now talking with J.C. Penney about offering a home interior collection.

J.C. Penney isn't alone in its search for ethnic customers.

Sears Roebuck's lines include African Village loungewear and a new line called Mosaic, designed by Alvin Bell.

Hispanics currently number 28.6 million, or 11 percent, and that figure is expected to grow to 41.1 million by 2010, or 14 percent.