- Kohl’s and JCPenney both have a similar inventory, but there’s a lot that separates the two retailers’ strategies for success.
- JCPenney is one of the largest department stores in the US, but the company recently hit a wall in terms of sales and growth, reporting a 9% same-store sales decrease for the second quarter of 2019. It also plans to close 27 stores in 13 states.
- Kohl’s also reported a 2.9% drop in sales in stores open for more than a year in its second-quarter earnings. But Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said foot traffic in its stores had increased from the company’s partnership with Amazon.
- We shopped at both stores and saw why Kohl’s has mostly managed to avoid mass store closures and outperform similar retailers like JCPenney.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Kohl’s and JCPenney are both struggling a bit.
To critics, JCPenney represents a lack of specialization when it comes to the consumer.
“JCPenney hasn’t created an experience that solidifies a place in consumers’ shopping habits,” Kathy Gersch, the executive vice president of the consultancy firm Kotter, told Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury in May 2018.
Kohl’s is doing slightly better.
The company reported in its second-quarter earnings that sales dropped by 2.9% in stores open for more than a year.
Nine out of 10 Kohl’s stores are in suburban strip malls rather than enclosed shopping malls, so declining foot traffic in malls hasn’t affected the chain as strongly. The retailer’s recent partnership with Amazon to accept returns for the e-commerce giant in its stores also helped boost traffic by nearly 24% in its first three weeks, according to data from InMarket.
We shopped at both stores and saw similar issues in each, such as messy displays, outdated merchandise, and eclectic and overwhelming products. However, the measures Kohl’s has taken to boost traffic online and in stores made it clear why it is outperforming JCPenney.
Here was our experience:
First, we stopped by a Kohl’s in a mall in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Right away, we were notified of the store’s “buy online, pick up in store” policy, which caught our attention. This seemed like a great move for people who don’t have much time to browse.
We also learned about the Kohl’s app, which the company says lets customers save while they shop.
Later in our journey, we would also find a kiosk to help shoppers look up and order Kohl’s products online.
Kohl’s sells everything from clothes to kitchen appliances. The store provided trendy carts while we shopped.
We first checked out the women’s section, which was boasting attire for every occasion.
The women’s section was pretty large, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that everything on display was blatantly out of style.
It was hard to find anything that looked like it fit in a current fashion trend. This two-piece Vera Wang pajama set was pretty dull — and it cost $56, which seemed absurd.
Still, we did find some good sales throughout the section. There was a “buy one, get one 50% off” sale for Vera Wang sleepwear.
In the kid’s clearance section, we found a whole lot of mess awaiting us. Racks were overcrowded …
… and merchandise seemed to be spilling on the ground everywhere we looked.
This table of shoes was bursting with boxes and styles for kids, but it wasn’t appealing to look at.
Still, the offerings were hard to complain about here. We did stumble upon this cute “Fortnite” sweater for kids that was originally priced at $40 but on sale.
The aisles were also punctuated with disorganization. It wasn’t rare for us to stumble into a cart carrying merchandise.
There were massive shoe sections for women, men, and kids, with pretty standard options, from everyday shoes to formal ones.
There were a lot of brand-name shoes, like Nikes.
In the sports-attire department, there was an entire section for Under Armour, an athleticwear company that has had a bit of a hard time winning over the North American market. We also found some clothes from Nike and Adidas downstairs later on.
Source: Business Insider
Moving on, we made our way to a section full of kitchen appliances.
Here, we found everything from blenders to vacuum cleaners.
We liked the different kitchen displays that highlighted Kohls’ partnerships with cooking brands.
The appliance section was a huge part of Kohl’s, and we were overall pleased with the offerings here.
And the home-goods section was a pleasure to behold, as the shelves were orderly and well stocked with darling items meant to beautify a house.
A lot of the items here were on sale, which made the selection even more attractive.
This scented-candle display was slightly lacking, but the home section at Kohl’s was strong overall — one of the strongest sections of the store so far.
There was also a nice section of toys and games for kids that featured everything from Legos to sidewalk chalk.
We found some red lockers near the back of the store reserved for shoppers who had ordered items online and were picking them up in the store.
Being in a mall makes declining foot traffic a difficult issue for stores like Kohl’s to navigate. Luckily, Kohl’s has a secret weapon via its partnership with Amazon to let people drop off Amazon returns in the store.
Source: Business Insider
The small station is a brilliant move by Kohl’s and has increased store traffic by as much as 24%, according to data from InMarket.
Source: Business Insider
Nearby, we found a nice luggage section …
… as well as a station with Fitbit wristbands near some backpacks.
Downstairs, we found some handbags and the men’s clothing department, as well as some more women’s clothing.
The items here were pretty standard, and a lot of them, again, felt woefully out of style. Overall, the messy store and out-of-style offerings at Kohl’s might have contributed to the company’s drop in sales. But the in-store add-ons and unique partnership with Amazon seemed to be giving the store a leg up over its competitors.
Next, we stopped by a JCPenney in the same mall, just a short walk away.
We started our journey on the second floor, which included sections for jewelry, accessories, and men’s and women’s clothes and shoes. Like at Kohl’s, we first walked into the women’s clothing section, which was rather similar to the one at Kohl’s.
Nothing really jumped out at us here, but we did notice some options that seemed somewhat stylish, like this wraparound yellow top for $37.
There was a sizable collection of formal eveningwear in JCPenney, but the options looked like they were catering to a slightly older demographic. We also noticed that a lot of items were on sale.
But some things were still expensive. This two-piece maroon evening gown was listed at $120.
In the shoe department, we found a large supply of Nike sneakers, as we did in Kohl’s.
For many pairs of shoes, there was a “buy one, get one 50% off” deal.
Moving on, we found a large jewelry section that had everything from earrings to necklaces.
There were also a lot of stylish watches that were 25% off for people with the JCPenney credit card.
One of the more interesting features of JCPenney was this in-store Sephora — a partnership designed to increase foot traffic. When we were there, it was pretty empty.
Source: Business Insider
In the sports section, we found items from a bunch of major athleticwear companies, including Nike and Adidas.
We found a well-stocked plus-size section at JCPenney, with mannequins modeling the offerings.
We hadn’t seen such an obvious section for plus-size clothes in Kohl’s, so this was definitely a win for JCPenney.
Elsewhere, we saw a mannequin missing its hands …
… as well as some legs that seemed to be missing their pants.
The clearance section was clearly marked with flashy yellow signs that let us know we’d be able to find good deals. Nothing stood out to us here, but at least the area looked organized.
Some handbags were also on clearance, and though the options here were somewhat bland, the prices were definitely exciting.
In the men’s section, we found all the basics, from swimwear …
… to jeans.
This sparkly blazer for $140 was definitely not our look, but it added some vibrancy to the offerings in the store.
The selection of graphic tees with pop-culture references was the most appealing part of the men’s section — to us, at least.
We found multiple tables with different shirts referencing everything from old movies to brands. Plus, a lot of them were on clearance.
Though there were a lot of sales, we couldn’t help but notice how empty the store felt.
We made our way downstairs to check out the home-goods, kids, and intimates sections. We started in the home section, where we found some nice dining sets, again on sale.
Nothing jumped out to us here — everything was pretty basic, and the designs didn’t excite us like the ones at Kohl’s did.
Plus, certain sections left a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness.
We did find some interesting pieces though, like these coffee mugs with religious overtones, going for about $7 each.
There was a large selection of decorative pillows …
… as well as basic kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors.
Overall, JCPenney had everything needed to fill a home, from the bathroom …
… to the bedroom.
The toy section was notable for its massive collection of Disney toys from hit films like “Aladdin” and “Frozen.” The selection of plush toys was cute, but a bit disorganized.
Nearby, we found a large kids-apparel section, with a nice array of sparkly Converse sneakers.
There was also an in-store salon, no doubt designed to increase foot traffic.
There was also a portrait center for people to get headshots or family photos.
Like Kohl’s, JCPenney offered the option to order items online and pick them up in the store. We didn’t notice any handy lockers for customers to pick up their purchases, but there was a kiosk devoted to this feature.
There were checkout counters throughout the store, but some of them were left unattended.
JCPenney and Kohl’s have similar organization and offerings. However, the measures Kohl’s has taken to boost traffic online and in stores made it clear why it is outperforming JCPenney, whose in-store Sephora, salon, and portrait center just aren’t cutting it.