Despite its nemesis J.C. Penney (JCP) seeing robust crowds at its second consecutive early Thanksgiving Day opening, Macy's (M) CEO Terry Lundgren said he believes his department stores haven't exactly been empty so far this holiday season. 

"I think [us opening at 5 p.m.] all worked out best for our employees, and it appears to be that way for our customers as well," said Lundgren in a phone interview with TheStreet. And that is good news for Macy's as it tries to keep Wall Street's newfound optimism over its stock intact. 

Coupled with some new deals to sell off prized real estate and rebounding sales in the third quarter, Macy's stock has tacked on a cool 23% over the past month. The S&P 500 has only gained about 2.5% during the same span. 

Here's what Lundgren, who will be handing off the CEO reigns to hand-picked successor Jeff Gennette in the first quarter of next year, has seen at Macy's stores across the U.S. since its Thanksgiving Day opening. What follows is an edited and condensed version of our discussion.

Macy's Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren.

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