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Jill Soltau

Jill Soltau, a Viroqua native and a 1989 graduate of UW-Stout, has been named CEO of J.C. Penney.

A Wisconsin native is now leading a retailing giant that is trying to dig its self out a major hole in a challenging environment for brick and mortar stores.

Jill Soltau, who grew up in Viroqua and is a 1989 graduate of UW-Stout, was named last month the CEO of J.C. Penney. She replaces Marvin Ellison, who resigned this summer after four years to become CEO of the Lowe’s home improvement chain.

“J.C. Penney is a quintessential American brand with a strong and loyal customer base, and I couldn’t be prouder to lead such an iconic retailer,” Soltau said in a company news release. “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.”

Soltau had most recently been CEO of JOANN Stores, a position she held since 2015.  JOANN has more than 850 fabric and craft stores in 49 states. Soltau is a former president of Shopko Stores and also held positions with Sears, Carson Pirie Scott, Kohl’s and Macy’s. In her 30-year career in retail, Soltau has held executive positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management.

At J.C. Penney, Soltau, a graduate of UW-Stout’s retail merchandising and management undergraduate program, will try and bring the company out of nearly $4 billion in debt and turn around sales that have declined for each of the past three years. In 2017, the company closed 140 of its 1,000 stores.

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(2) comments


Congratulations! It would be great if she could make our Penney's store more functional. I don't shop often but went to the local one yesterday. It really needs HELP. Too crowded, fitting rooms closed - the one I finally found way across from the department I was shopping in was so dirty and messy. There were only 2 check-outs that I could see and they were so overwhelmed - no one would want that job. The gal that checked me out was well trained and cheerful despite the l o n g line of increasingly impatient customers. I noticed the cosmetics department was staffed by 3-4 people and had no customers - it's probably an outside vendor leasing space from Penneys.
We really need Penneys - it has everyday items everyone needs - not overpriced usually and it is handy. I am dismayed by the lack of quality goods across the board however - and that means in ALL STORES. I recently ordered what appeared to be a lovely 3 piece lounge-wear outfit from Talbots and it is hideous. The fabric is scratchy, the construction is awful and it will be returned. This 'low-bid' manufacturing and retail is sickening. We should stop wasting resources on junky clothing and stuff that ends up in the landfill in a month or two.


Good luck. You are going to need it. If you can turn Pennys around you will be a legend.

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