How JCPenney is Keeping Traditional Department Stores Alive by Breaking Tradition
There are few things more American than department stores. The endless racks and shelves full of everything from designer to regional labels. The home goods section overflowing with the latest kitchen tech and hotel-quality towels. They are truly a one-stop shopping experience. JCPenney is no different.
Despite many department stores in decline, JCP has kept the magic of this brand going strong.
James Cash Penney opened his first store, the Golden Rule, in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902. Twelve years later, it incorporated as JCPenney. According to the corporation, the first name “set the standard by which we have operated for over a century––to treat others as we would like to be treated.”
In the following century, the department store moved its headquarters to NYC then to Texas. It introduced private label brands and its famous catalogs and was one of the “first national retailers to embrace e-commerce.” Just since 2000, JCP has created more brand partnerships, expanded its global operations, and hired a new CEO to bring them into the 21st Century.
Department Stores in America
Department stores like JCP were huge features in 19th and 20th Century American culture. They, as one source puts it, “reassured Americans by their very existence that life was good, that beauty mattered, and that order and stability prevailed.”
These massive buildings were the epitome of modern merchandising. And helped to offer fashion and affordable goods to the general public. They also helped women gain their freedom in the 19th century. At that time, they “were among the first urban spaces where women could move around without ‘protection’ of men outside the home.” Department stores provided a safe place where women could gather, socialize, and provide goods for the household.
Department stores have their names because each part of the store was a different department. “Staffed largely by women” they also had luxurious, comfortable furnishings. Some, like the Emporium in San Francisco, had a nursery, emergency room and post office. As well as a beauty parlor, and library to keep shoppers’ interests all day. And, with women’s “newfound mobility came economic power, too”–– a fact carried on today as women make 80 percent of “all consumer purchasing decisions.”
A Fresh Take on Tradition—the New JCPenney
Today, we are in “the great American department store shakeout,” as many of the iconic stores go out of business or lose their foothold. According to a CNBC article, “today’s shoppers like their shopping personalized: shoes for the working urban women, pants for the stay-at-home mom” and department stores’ mass appeal does not fit that mold.
Recently, giants like Barney’s filed for bankruptcy and Nordstrom’s and Macy’s experienced falling shares. With more than 1,000 department stores closing in 2019, it seems like the end of an era.
Yet, JCPenney has a fresh take on tradition with a recent rebrand––complete with a new format, ideas, and logo. This reimaging begins with their new lifestyle store in Hurst, Texas where they’ve organized the store into different areas like All Day for casual wear, On Point for more professional looks, Move for activewear, Chill for lounge and sleepwear, and Shine for “very special occasions.” These new departments are attempting to appeal to consumers’ more personalized shopping habits. They’ve added a barbershop, styling rooms, movement studio, Shutterfly Picture studio, and bistro. JCP is now attracting a newer generation with the elements that made department stores popular in the 19th century.
According to JCP, their “focus is on rebuilding the company.” The new lifestyle store is an example of what’s to come for JCP stores across the nation––and shows that JCP management is listening to your needs. In addition to the reworked departments, stores will soon feature partnerships with Pinterest to help customers redecorate. As well as outdoor shops in 100 of their stores and a partnership with ThredUp for secondhand clothing. The new CEO, Jill Soltau, “emphasized that JCPenney is about style and fashion, so it is trying to make it easy for customers to put styles together any way they want.”
Explore your local JCPenney
JCP has been a staple at the Cascade Village Shopping Center for decades. Explore your local store to see how they are keeping traditional department stores alive.