Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't Diss JC Penney's

These are the mannequins in the window of the brand-new JC Penney store in Midtown Manhattan. Look at them.

Here's what the New York Times' "critical shopper," Cintra Wilson, says about them in her Thursday Styles piece of a few days ago: Penney's "has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen. They probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on. It's like a headless wax museum devoted entirely to the cast of 'Roseanne.'"

In what I consider the most needlessly cruel "review" of a retail store ever, Ms. Wilson finds two dozen ways to insult the bedrock American institution and its intrusion into the home of "the stress-thin, morbidly workaholic, Pilates-tortured Manhattan ectomorph." God forbid.

Now, I feel sorry for JC Penney's. Not just because of the mean comments, but because it's trying so hard to stay afloat. As a capitalist, I realize that only businesses that can appeal to customers and make a profit deserve to survive. But Penney's decided to take the bold move and open a Midtown store, and snobby urbanites who think the millions of customers grateful for a JC Penney's in their disparate communities are worthless ought to just button up long enough to see if the venture can succeed on its own terms.

Admittedly, my middle daughter won't even peruse the sale racks in our local JC Penney's; its reputation is that low. But truly, she's missing something. The aggressive sales ads and coupons and, frankly, reasonable prices, have lured me in often. Nowhere are there cheaper and better flat shoes that are actually cute. And they have wardrobe basics like t-shirts and underwear and even suits that can be so well-priced that I wonder how the items can be made and still produce profit.

If you're catty, and you're very fashion-conscious, and New York centric, you may just read the NYT screed and giggle. Yes, there are some nuggets that are true about JC Penney's frumpy image ("Why would this dowdy Middle American entity waddle into Midtown in its big old shorts and flip-flops without even bothering to update its ancient Helvetica Light Logo...?"), and its attempts to offer mild style at low cost ("A good 96 percent of the Penney's inventory is made of Polyester.") but some of us don't want to waste wads of money on ephemeral purchases and actually appreciate a store where there are few pretenses.

And I don't think the mannequins are fat at all.

OK, it's true, you can't find very many size 2 outfits there (ok again, I am a size 2) but I love JC Penney's, and I love wandering down to the napkin rings and table settings, always on sale, and the lingerie where fun print bras can be found for $10. I use their luggage. I like their bedding. And my beloved optometrist has his office in Penney's basement.

So there. You take Manhattan. I'll take JC Penney.


  1. Right on! It is actually a relief to have a low-cost shopping option in such an expensive city.

  2. Take heart. I used to be just like your daughter and wouldn't step near the entrance of a JC Penny, Sears, even Macys at times. Everything changed once I aged a few years and began paying my own bills. Now my heart leaps out of my chest when entering Target from sheer excitement of the cheap & CHIC finds that will soon enter my shopping basket. :)

  3. Thanks, Esther and Jennifer. I agree, Target is more exciting than Penney's. LOVE their paper napkins and tablegoods!

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