JCPenney (Manhattan Mall)
I finally got a chance to visit the store on September 26th. JCPenney is situated on the two below-street levels of the Manhattan Mall with escalator access from 6th Avenue and direct subway and PATH train access on the selling floors. The store features a Sephora boutique, a large jewelry department, Custom Decorating and a catalog department, pretty typical for a suburban Penney's of this size. There was no Styling Salon, optical department or portrait studio.
The design of the store a bit of a departure for Penney's. The ceilings are very low, only 8 feet high in some places, and the extensive use of black, white and red in the interior details gave it a different look than your typical JCPenney store. Directional and department signs are lighted, making it feel very urban and helping viability. There are showcases and vignettes all over the store and Penney's has made the displays look as good as they can so show off what is actually a pretty good merchandise selection.
As expected, clothing is the primary focus of this JCPenney. Selections were a bit edited in larger sizes and petites, but there was plenty of decent looking merchandise at affordable price points. Some the merchandise clearly wasn't aimed at a typical New York shopper (a rack of teal Alfred Dunner sportswear separates comes to mind), but tourists would feel right at home with it. The home departments were also really well stocked.
There aren't a lot of sales associates on the floor, but the checkouts were very well staffed. They use a queue system similar to ones used by T.J. Maxx and Whole Foods Market, and payment is easy and efficient. There's even a package delivery service with rates as low as $15.00 for delivery in Manhattan.
I think this place has a future. Customer traffic was good for a Saturday and the store has easy commuter and tourist access via subway, commuter train, bus and foot. As long as they keep the merchandise fresh and the checkout speedy, they're not going to lose.