by: David Polinchock

We're working on getting some press credentials for the opening (in case anyone from Penney's is reading!), but this could be a way cool addition to the retail experience. One of the things that's really pretty edgy is that it is designed to showcase its private label and exclusive brands, which also makes them a pretty hot target for all of their retail partners.We love the location and think it can bring a totally different vibe to the J.C. Penney brand. Interestingly, we spoke to a journalist doing a story on the changing face of grocery stores and one of their questions was about how retail seemed to be moving in two directions — price-based and experience-based. Their hypothesis was that stores in the middle, featuring neither the lowest prices or the best experiences, faced a very uncertain future. We not only agreed, we thought it was a challenge for the entire retail industry, not just grocery stores.

One of the things that's really pretty edgy is that it is designed to showcase its private label and exclusive brands, which also makes them a pretty hot target for all of their retail partners. We love the location and think it can bring a totally different vibe to the J.C. Penney brand. Interestingly, we spoke to a journalist doing a story on the changing face of grocery stores and one of their questions was about how retail seemed to be moving in two directions — price-based and experience-based. Their hypothesis was that stores in the middle, featuring neither the lowest prices or the best experiences, faced a very uncertain future. We not only agreed, we thought it was a challenge for the entire retail industry, not just grocery stores.

J.C. Penney could potentially fall into the middle category and this is an excellent way to totally change the perception of who they are. I mean, after al, they are a founding father of the retail industry and it many ways, Diva thinks they’ve lost the voice of their story. Experiences like this are a great way to get their voice back and introduce themselves to a whole new audience. But, they do face the very real challenge of making sure that their entire experience delivers on their story, not just this one location. Here's what BusinessWeek had to say:

We've been hearing about the virtual store for many years now, with the hype growing to a crescendo during the first coming of the internet, and peaking just before the tech wreck. Since then, e-commerce has been growing steadily towards inevitable dominance at some point in the distant future. A spectacular initiative from American department store retailing institution J. C. Penney yesterday might cause everybody to rethink how e-commerce and the future of retailing might unfold though. The company will construct a 15, 000-square-foot physical manifestation of the virtual store at One Times Square on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, New York. In our humble opinion, the opening of this temporary virtual store from March 3-26, in which shoppers can purchase the company's full range of merchandise at interactive kiosks, marks a significant development in the history of retail. We believe that traveling virtual superstores could be a part of retailing's future.

Opening March 3, the JCPenney Experience store will be a showcase for its private and exclusive brands, modeled after JCPenney's signature trademark, the 'Big Red Box.' Inside, visitors from around the world will find an exclusive assortment from the spring collections of the company's private and exclusive brands. Shoppers will be able to buy everything in the store at interactive kiosks, which will feature all of the 250,000 items available at the company's web site. 

Interestingly, last year Sheldon Gordon announced a new retail concept. For this of you who might not know Mr. Gordon, he was the man behind Cesear's Forum Shops, some of the best retail space in the biz! Here's a brief overview:

Sometime near the end of 2006, the complex, called Epicenter, is scheduled to open in Columbus at the Polaris Fashion Place. The nucleus of Epicenter will consist of two parts - the Buypod, a hand-held electronic device, and electronic kiosks located throughout the mall.

Under the concept, customers will enter the mall and register their credit card information, which will then be put into their Buypods. As customers browse merchandise, they can use their Buypod - which, as the name suggests, looks something like an Apple iPod - to scan the labels of items they want to buy.

Although a small number of items will available to take home, most orders will be sent directly to the warehouse, where they will be filled and shipped. The electronic kiosks will print receipts and can be used to cancel orders, if needed.

According to Anthony Lee, Epicenter's chief executive, Internet and catalogue retailers can use Epicenter to establish a place where their customers can feel, and in some cases try on, merchandise. The Epicenter design also offers the low overhead and reduced need for sales staff that online and catalogue retailers are accustomed to. Mr. Lee would not reveal the names of the "small" number of retailers who had signed up for Epicenter, but he said that "interest runs very high." 

Lots of folks are used to buying online now. They don't need to lug the package out to the parking lot, into their car and then home to feel the satisfaction of shopping. But many times, they do like to see and touch the merchandise. This is the perfect combination of retail experiences. And we think that this is only the start.

If someone from the JCPenney PR team does send an invite our way, we'll give you live blogging updates from inside the store!

Read more about the JCPenney Experience store: The Temporary Physical Virtual Store.

Original Post: http://blog.brandexperiencelab.org/experience_manifesto/2006/03/the_temporary_p.html

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