JC Penney, which now calls itself JCP, continues to struggle as the most recent quarterly earnings reported a net loss of $123 million. This is just one sign of a declining brand that has failed to make itself relevant in today’s retail market. JC Penney still reeling from past mistakes.

The other, and far larger sign, is that JCP’s strategy has been to leverage the labels it carries – Levi’s, Izod, Liz Clairborne, etc. – rather than build a strong JCP brand.

JC Penney still reeling Retailers call this the “shop concept” and it’s usually a loser because it teaches customers to seek labels they can find elsewhere, especially online.

Sears offers a cautionary tale for JCP. Once the sole purveyor of Craftsman and Kenmore products, Sears has since become the poster child for irrelevant brands.

The simple matter is that JCP must define its audience. That strategy has worked for Nordstrom, which saw its sales jump 14% this quarter.

When a retailer ties itself to the brands on its shelves, it begins to look more like a warehouse of products rather than a shopping destination.

That is the definition of a brand.