Rudolph leads Penney’s Q4 sales charge

Retailer: JCPenney...
October 1, 1999

Retailer: JCPenney

Promotion: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Number of participating stores: 1,000

Length of promotion: Three months

After the portly fellow with the white beard, it doesn’t take much market research to figure out that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the next character kids and parents most readily identify with the Christmas holiday season.

But just to be on the safe side, researching Rudolph’s popularity is exactly what JCPenney did before it sought permission from the property’s North American rights holder GoodTimes Entertainment to use the world’s most famous reindeer in its chain-wide Q4 promotion that kicks off this month and runs until the end of December.

Unlike Santa Claus (a ubiquitous property that falls within the public domain, therefore offering a retailer no exclusivity during the holiday season), JCPenney believes licensed character Rudolph still has room to grow.

‘Yes, the public’s awareness for Rudolph is very high, but we don’t feel he’s been over-saturated in the market to the point where people are beginning to grow tired of him,’ says Drew Cummings, VP and director of special events at the Plano, Texas-based retailer.

There are four components to JCP’s Rudolph promo: exclusive merchandise, product giveaways, purchase-with-purchase discounts and a tie-in with a JCP charity.

As part of the one-year deal it struck with GoodTimes, JCP was granted exclusive licensing rights to produce nearly 100 different Rudolph SKUs, encompassing everything from home furnishings (table mats, plates, ornaments), to toys (Rudolph plush), to children’s apparel (girls sweaters and pyjamas). As such, promotional displays and signage are being situated in Penney’s departments that house these product categories. Cummings says the retailer’s reasons for producing close to 80% of the promotional products it’s carrying in-house were two-fold-to save time and to exert greater control over how the appearance of Rudolph translated into the merchandise.

JCPenney used two different kinds of art in its products, one Rudolph for kids merch, which resembles the colorful, doe-eyed reindeer popularized in the Rankin/Bass TV movies from the 1960s, and another sleeker looking line-art Rudolph, which is incorporated into merchandise geared to adults, such as home furnishings.

To draw the attention of shoppers to the promo, JCPenney will give away miniature Rudolph plush dolls to consumers following the American Thanksgiving holiday. JCP is also offering a US$20 discount off the list price of Dancing Rudolph (US$40), a plush item that sings and dances when activated (to consumers who spend US$25 or more). In addition, JCP’s Portrait studio is giving away Rudolph portrait trees, valued at US$7 each, with purchase of any Rudolph merch. Finally, to tie into the spirit of the season, JCP is donating a percentage of the sales of a new CD featuring classic Christmas songs to JCPenney’s Can-Do Afterschool fund, a new charity that helps pay for sports and activity clubs.

The ad campaign for the promo has already begun in earnest. A supplement listing the Rudolph merch was sent out with Penney’s Fall/Christmas catalog last month. JCP will be running TV commercials for the promo in November and giving coverage of the event on its Web site (

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