JCPenney opened its first store in Manhattan about a week ago, cheek by jowl with Macy’s in Herald Square, ready to take on the world’s largest store. I stopped in on my way someplace else today and was struck by how well they figured out us finicky New Yorkers – always in a rush, no time to wait on line (not in line as people say in other parts of the country).
According to a story in The New York Times, JCPenney executives did a great deal of research prior to their risky foray into the Big Apple. The company estimates that a city customer’s “wait tolerance” will be no more than 90 seconds, so they hired shoe runners to zoom shoes to the sales floor from stockrooms and installed an electronic queuing system that directs customers to cash registers and estimates wait times. Nothing shoppers like me hate worse than a dirty bathroom, so if an hour goes by and the bathrooms have not been cleaned, a buzzer automatically goes off, alerting store staff.
The company also has a strong following in the Hispanic market, so all signage is in both English and Spanish. Attendants in suits and ties stand by the escalators as customers enter the store to direct them and answer questions. I thought this kind of service went out with the horse and buggy.
Here’s the thing that will get me coming back to the store: there is no limit on the number of garments you can take into a luxuriously sized dressing room. None of the ignominy of a surly attendant eyeing you with suspicion as she counts the number of items you are taking into the dressing room. Heaven help you in other stores if you try to sneak in one more than is allowed. The staff has obviously been trained to be polite and helpful (this is not so rare in New York as you may think).
It would be nice — and also more profitable — if other retailers took into account their customers’ needs and wants. Hats off to JCPenney for a job well done in communicating with their customers through good customer service in possibly the country’s toughest retail market. Oh, did I mention I bought a pair of slacks and a blouse?