J.C. Penney Back From the Dead? We Head to the Mall to Find Out

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Who shops at J.C. Penney (JCP) these days?

The retail chain, which is holding a highly anticipated analysts day in New York City on Wednesday, hopes to show investors, analysts and media that it is still relevant with American consumers.

The event -- the first in nearly three years -- will be hosted by chairman and CEO Mike Ullman and his executive team. The Street will be there to live blog the presentations, which will likely underscore how far the company has come from the disastrous tenure of former CEO Ron Johnson.

In the meantime, we headed to the mall to see just what's new and different with J.C. Penney. Here's what we found.

In the following photos, you see healthier in-stock levels on traffic-driving basic apparel and home goods.

  
 


References to "big buy" and the exact percentage off are converting to sales. In 2013, the company needed more profit-killing "clearance" signs to seal the deal.

"Clearance sales were less than 15% of the total sales for the quarter, in line with historical rate. In addition, the margin on clearance goods continues to normalize and significantly improved vs. last quarter's results," noted J.C. Penney chief financial officer Ed Record on the second-quarter earnings call in August.

In-store marketing for name brands, such as hot-selling athletic apparel from Nike (NKE) , has improved as seen here in large, bold signs. 

"Our Sephora business was up over 25% in total and up over 11% in stores opened at least one full year. We opened 13 Sephora inside J.C. Penney locations and expanded eight locations in existing stores the quarter," said Record.

What helps Sephora is that it's usually the first thing a customer sees when walking into a J.C. Penney store 

According to Record, "Home was up over double-digits in the store piece, was up over 25% improvement over the prior year." As seen below, J.C. Penney's home goods are now presented to the consumer by category (all bed spreads on the same shelf, for example) instead of by lifestyle, making it easier to shop. 

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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