Penney’s: The New Department Store Flagship

Penney’s: The New Department Store Flagship

Penney’s: The New Department Store Flagship 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

When in Texas, why not visit the next JCPenney, right? It’s been a staple in the department retail world since 1902 and many of us have traveled through—the racks, shiny shoes, and the scent of a perm in the works in the hair salon. This, as for most people I know, was part of childhood and I left it there. Many of those locations remained untouched and neglected for years, so why would I go?

A few years ago JCPenney started to take a new position. The marketing evolved, but the stores–not so much. Little vignette changes appeared here and there, but the dated, department store bones remained. Sephora stepped on the scene and my trip would consist of a b-line straight for it and right out again. As time went on, we began to see the fallout all over the department store retail sector, and things started to change, at a snail’s pace.

Fast forward to now and Penney’s is back, taking what’s best of JCPenney and elevating it. Dropping the JC from the store front was a lovely surprise. Penney’s by JCP. Inside, however, it’s not what I remember of my mom’s Penney’s. Though if she lived in Dallas, it would become her favorite place. And I’d happily tag along again and again.

The entire store is bright, white, with pops of color drawing you deeper into the store. Curved walls give a sense of discovery while allowing destination focals to unveil themselves as shoppers meander through. Lynn Rosenbaum, CG’s VP of Design, and I had a 20-minute conversation on the lighting alone. (If you know Lynn, you know how that can go!)

As we’ve seen in many department stores, service has become an expectation. At Penney’s, there’s a slew of offers that could keep shoppers entertained and keep them coming back.

Not only is there a coffee bar on the first floor, there’s also an even larger Cafe on the second.

The beauty zone houses Sephora, of course, but is also home to The Salon by InStyle and blowout bar. Conveniently located near a main entry point, it’s easy for shoppers to access their appointment or drop in for a beauty fix. On the opposite side of the store, also near an entrance point, is The Barbery, another available service spot where you can stay looking fresh with a new cut or even a shoe shine.

Fashion is more forward than your typical JCPenney. Curated collections of cross merchandise are used throughout the store, creating seasonal and local stories.

The Personalization trend isn’t going away anytime soon, and shoppers of Penney’s can make appointments to be fitted in the Styling Room and InStyle Stylist, providing a one-on-one experience with expert advice.

You may remember the photo studios within the 80s department store, but here it’s received a major and delightful upgrade. In partnership with Lifetouch + Shutterfly, the colorful studio offers up professional photo services that are then developed into unique creations, like the Shutterfly book, and shipped to your door.

The store also features a kid zone that’s highlighted with a Disney Shop. It’s a fun area where kids have time to play, while mom and dad shop.

In the activewear department, there’s a full Movement Studio where yoga classes and other events are held. Throughout the store, there are “hangout” spots, activating events or just providing seating when an event isn’t happening.

It makes me wonder. It’s beautiful and I love it, don’t get me wrong, but are people signing up and using it? I was in on a Tuesday afternoon, and it wasn’t exactly busy and the hangout spots and lounges were empty, with no merchandise. But it’s a huge store, so maybe there’s sales floor to spare.

I’m also surprised this Penney’s is an anchor on a traditional mall property. It was a renovation and has become, what they call, a lab store so I understand the intent. But when we consider this new shopper, and the activations available, is it driving traffic to the mall? Would it be better to become stand alone? Why such a large space? We’ll have to see what testing shows and how this new flagship will affect the fleet.

A quick note: I wrote this post prior to the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the US. I hope we all can get back to visiting retail soon. Stay healthy and positive, everyone.

Interested more flagship retail? Espeially during social distancing? Check out Nordstrom’s New New York Flagship.

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© Chute Gerdeman

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