Sunday, September 27, 2009

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Front page of store directory from Grand Opening.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Banner outside store on 6th Avenue announcing opening. Photographed 9/26/09.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Exterior entrance. Photographed 9/26/09.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Mall entrance. Photographed 9/26/09.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Store directory.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Main aisle on Lower level 1. Photographed 9/26/09.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. Showcase at mall entrance. Photographed 9/26/09.

JCPenney; Manhattan Mall (former Gimbels), New York, New York. interior display vignette. Photographed 9/26/09.

Manhattan Mall is located in Herald Square at the corner of 33rd Street and Sixth Avenue in New York. The building originally opened in 1910 as the flagship store for the iconic Gimbels department store chain, and was open until 1986 under that nameplate.

Fore more history on this space, click here for my Manhattan Mall post.

JCPenney is situated on the two below-street levels of the Manhattan Mall with escalator and elevator access from Sixth 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.


  1. Are you sure thats not Macy's?

    1. Yes, since this is in the former Gimbel's store (you may remember Macy's & Gimbel's from that movie, Miracle on 34th St., where they send someone to Gimbel's when Macy's doesn't have the item).

  2. Positive. Macy's in New York is larger and more elaborate than this JCPenney.

  3. There were signs everywhere for this JCP store coming to NYC, lots of promotional work went into its opening. It's an interesting store to say the least.

  4. Yeah I know. It looks like an average suburban Macy*s, definitly not the flagship.

  5. cantnot: If non-stop promotion makes any difference, JCPenney should do okay in New York. the ads were inescapable.

    ct36: To me, it doesn't look much like Macy's. Macy's stores, especially the legacy ones, seem more spacious.

  6. Steven - Great post! I really think JCP will do well there. There's definitely room for them, and I've never been of the opinion that Macy's owns the market in NYC. I really like the customized marketing they're doing - no doubt they realize the stakes are high.

    I love your pic with the JCP banner on the same pole as the "Avenue of the Americas" (honorary name for 6th Ave.) street sign. JCPenney's home office had that address for decades before they moved the HQ to Dallas in the early 90's.

  7. Thanks Dave! Macy's only owns a small sliver of the NYC market. From what I can tell, they represent the middle of the middle market, which is what JCPenney represents everywhere else. There's enough room in that sector for Penney's to be profitable without major heartburn for Macy's. They compliment each other pretty well.

  8. What I meant was that it looks too nice to be a JCPenney

  9. Pretty fancy JCP. Looks cutting edge and hip... that is, very NYC. I hope they do well there.

  10. Thanks guys. I feel the same way about this store.