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All but two Tampa Bay J.C. Penney will have new baby shop

All but two of the Tampa Bay area J.C. Penney’s will have expanded baby departments following the chain’s decision to overhaul its infant selection following the demise of Babies R Us.

J.C. Penney is opening baby shops in 500 stores near former Babies R Us stores, which were shuttered along during the Toys R Us liquidation earlier this year. The J.C. Penney stores in Spring Hill, Wesley Chapel, Brandon, Clearwater and Tampa’s Westshore Plaza will carry the expanded baby line starting Aug. 30.

The Citrus Park mall and Tyrone Square Mall locations will not, according to a J.C. Penney spokeswoman.

"The baby care business is expected to reach over $13 billion by 2021 and we are seizing this opportunity to pursue available market share and aggressively go after the baby customer with these new shops," James Starke, senior vice president and head of merchandising for J.C. Penney, said in a statement.

The Plano, Texas-based chain will go beyond baby clothing and offer cribs, high chairs, strollers and car seats. Those items used to be exclusively online.

Walmart, Target, BuyBuy Baby and Amazon have also tried fill the hole in the market left by Babies R Us. They, too, have added more baby products, advertised celebrity endorsements or helped customers recreate baby gift registries.

The stores will usher in the new baby merchandise with a sale at the end of the month.

"(Shoppers) want to test out the stroller, feel the crib sheets and compare bottle sizes in person," Stark said. "Our competition is underestimating the importance of a physical in-store baby shop and that is where J.C. Penney is going to differentiate."

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale

Editor’s note: The story originally stated that only one store (the Citrus Park J.C. Penney) would not have the baby store. The Tyrone Square Mall’s J.C. Penney also does not have a baby shop.

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