Hurst, Texas, is only 38 miles away from the JCPenney corporate headquarters in Plano – and just 22 miles from the Dallas Market Center – but the newly re-imagined JCPenney store there is worlds away from the typical store in the chain. And it could represent the future salvation of the struggling department store company.
Located in the NorthEast Mall, halfway between the DFW Airport and Fort Worth, the store is being called a “lab” rather than a prototype or test store, but it contains all of the prerequisites of what could be the JCPenney store of the not-too-distant future.
Of course, that depends on the retailer’s ability to weather its current precarious financial position. It continues to post disappointing results on both its top and bottom lines, and while its balance sheet is OK right now, it does have big debt payments looming in the next few years.
But for the present, the store in Hurst is one of the freshest approaches to department store retailing the industry has seen in years:
- The store is open and airy with spacious aisles and low fixtures giving it an easy-to-shop vibe. Merchandise on the selling floor has been reduced by 13% from the average JCPenney store. Most interesting, the store did not bring in special merchandise but sells only regular goods one would find in any location.
- Departments are often defined by curved walls that break the typical boxy layout of big department stores. Visual clues include a reported 350 mannequins, big, brightly lit photos and clever signage, including some vintage JCPenney logotypes.
- Services are integral to the store, including the enlarged Sephora shop, separate men’s and women’s hair salons, two coffee bars and even a shoe shine kiosk.
Of course, some of these elements can be found at other retailers and not all of them are likely to make the cut for future roll-outs. But the combination is compelling, and if store executives are pleased with the results – and have the time and financial resources – we will no doubt see some of these pieces turning up elsewhere in the company’s 800 or so locations.
But for the meantime, if you’re at the Dallas Market Center, a quick detour to Hurst could well be worth the time.