Empty Housewares Shelves Could Be in JC Penney's Future

Published 03/05 2013 10:25AM

Updated 03/05 2013 10:27AM

J.C. Penney, which is struggling with big losses and steep sales declines, could face another challenge: empty shelves.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Jeffrey Oing told Penney's attorneys on Monday that the chain took a risk by ordering towels, cookware and other products from the company that home diva Martha Stewart founded. In fact, Oing said he could force Penney to stop the products from heading to the shelves this spring even as they come off the docks.

"That's the risk your client took," Oing said. "Ultimately, you guys played it out."

Oing said he will hear oral arguments on Friday over the issue of whether Penney can sell goods like towels designed by Martha Stewart Living that are covered by Macy's exclusive agreement but are not sold under the Martha Stewart brand name.

The judge's statements came during the start of the third week in a trial that pits J.C. Penney Co. against rival Macy's Inc. over their relationship with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. At issue is whether Macy's has the exclusive right to sell some of Martha Stewart branded products such as cookware, bedding and bath.

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