- Macy’s and JCPenney are two of the biggest department stores in the United States.
- A number of factors, including the rise of e-commerce, declining foot traffic to malls, and a higher demand for off-price products, have caused department stores to suffer in recent years.
- Macy’s reported on Wednesday that comparable sales were up 3.1% in the most recent quarter, marking the fourth consecutive quarter of sales growth for the brand.
- JCPenney, on the other hand, reported on Thursday that comparable sales had dropped5.4 % in the third quarter.
- We recently visited both stores, and the difference between them was drastic.
But department stores are no longer in their heyday. The rise of e-commerce, declining foot traffic to malls, and a higher demand for off-price products are just some of the factors that have caused department stores to suffer in recent years. Several department-store chains, including both Macy’s and JCPenney, have recently closed locations across the country as they struggle to adapt to shoppers’ changing habits.
Macy’s, however, has appeared to be on the upswing. It reported on Wednesday that comparable sales were up 3.1% in the most recent quarter, marking the fourth consecutive quarter of sales growth for the company. When we visited the store, it was packed with shoppers looking for clothes, electronics, food, furniture, and more.
JCPenney, on the other hand, reported on Thursday that comparable sales had dropped5.4 % in the third quarter. Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury reported in July that part of why JCPenney has been struggling as of late is that it has had difficulty reaching its core customer.
We visited both stores’ locations in Manhattan’s Herald Square, and it couldn’t be more clear why Macy’s is seeing some success while JCPenney has struggled:
Macy’s in Herald Square was the first store I visited.
I was immediately overwhelmed. There were people everywhere, and there was so much to see in each direction that I wasn’t sure where to go.
Right by the entrance were a handful of tech displays, including a wall of TVs …
… and a Samsung kiosk.
The rest of the first floor seemed pretty random. There were ties …
… menswear …
… luggage …
… and a branded Calvin Klein display.
The jewellery on the first floor felt very high-end, and there were a lot of people shopping.
As I continued through the first floor, I was surprised to see a mini Apple store, which was packed with people.
The makeup department was massive. There were branded displays for every mid- and high-tier makeup brand I could think of, with employees standing by each display to offer perfume samples.
It was crowded, but it didn’t feel claustrophobic.
Throughout each department, there were several “last act” clearance displays, as well as sale signs advertising as much as 50% off.
There were designated floors for handbags, shoes, and accessories.
There was an entire floor dedicated to athletic wear, with brands like Nike, Adidas, Fila, and Champion.
Many of the displays were very over-the-top, no matter the department they were in. Everything looked thought-out.
The department store also featured several restaurants, including a cafeteria called Chef Street, McDonald’s, Au Bon Pain, Auntie Anne’s, Pinkberry, and a handful of others.
The restaurants were scattered throughout the nine floors of the store.
The store-within-a-store format was very common throughout all of Macy’s. Most high-end brands had not only branded displays, but entire stores with independent registers to check out at.
Some of the stores within Macy’s were Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Tommy Hilfiger.
Macy’s had a lot more than just fashion. As I made my way though each floor, I noticed bedding …
… home decor …
… and an entire furniture showroom. Each floor was as busy as the last. The store seemed like it would never end.
At the top of each escalator were signs advertising both the rewards program and the rewards credit card. The rewards program offers special perks and deals, and it can be paired with a Macy’s credit card to earn additional perks like cash back.
While the store was overwhelming, it had everything for every occasion, from formal wear to athletic wear, designer jewellery, bedding, furniture, electronics, and even food. It never felt too crowded despite how busy it was, and the store was spotlessly clean and organised.
I went to JCPenney next, right across the street from Macy’s.
There was an immediate difference between the stores. JCPenney was darker and felt much more cramped.
Rather than a makeup department, there was a full Sephora store in JCPenney.
The women’s department was first after the Sephora setup. The clothes were all very cluttered together, and there was very little organisation.
It seemed like half of the store was on clearance.
Sale signs were everywhere, and the displays were much messier than at Macy’s.
Like at Macy’s, there was a decently large athletic department carrying brands like Nike and Adidas. It was very cluttered and had less variety to offer.
The jewellery was along the lines of what you might find at Target. The department was very dark, and the lights were flickering, unlike at Macy’s, which had high ceilings and big, bright chandeliers.
The accessories were also pretty messy.
The shoe department was a lot cleaner and brighter than the rest of the store, but it still didn’t have a ton of variety.
Downstairs, I found home decor …
… kitchen and bath products …
… luggage …
… and appliances. The lights were flickering here, too.
There was also a small men’s department, which included another shoe department.
JCPenney had a corner of the store devoted to in-store pickup of online orders. Macy’s also offered this.
Also like Macy’s, JCPenney offers a rewards program and a store credit card.
The lines at JCPenney were chaotic. There was only one register on each floor, with just a few cashiers for the entire store.
The lines snaked through the aisles and moved very slowly.
After shopping at both stores, I thought Macy’s was the clear winner. It was much cleaner and more organised, and it offered a much greater variety and nicer shopping experience. However, JCPenney offered many of the same rewards perks as Macy’s, like a store credit card, birthday gifts, and in-store pickup.
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