We shopped at Kohl's and JCPenney and both had real issues. Here's why I'd rather shop at Kohl's anyway.

kohls 3178Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Kohl's and JCPenney are both struggling a bit.

JCPenney said it plans to close 27 stores in 13 states this year and reported a 9% same-store sales decrease for the second quarter of 2019.

To critics, JCPenney represents a lack of specialization when it comes to the consumer.

"JCPenney hasn't created an experience that solidifies a place in consumers' shopping habits," Kathy Gersch, executive vice president of the consultancy firm Kotter, told Business Insider's Mary Hanbury in May 2018.

Read more: We went to Kohl's and Target and found they were both a mess. Here's why I'd shop at Target anyway.

Kohl's is doing slightly better.

The company reported in its second-quarter earnings of 2019 that sales dropped 2.9% in stores open for more than a year.

Nine out of 10 Kohl's stores are in suburban strip malls rather than enclosed shopping malls, so declining foot traffic in malls hasn't affected the chain as strongly. The retailer's recent partnership with Amazon to accept returns for the e-commerce giant in its stores has also helped boost traffic nearly 24% in the three weeks after the partnership began, data from InMarket revealed.

We shopped at both stores and saw similar issues in each, such as messy displays, outdated merchandise, and eclectic and overwhelming products. However, the measures Kohl's has taken to boost traffic online and in stores made it clear why it is outperforming JCPenney.

Here was our experience:

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First, we stopped by a Kohl's in a Jersey City, New Jersey mall.

First, we stopped by a Kohl's in a Jersey City, New Jersey mall.

Right away, we were notified of the store's "buy online, pick up in store" policy, which caught our attention. For people who don't have much time to browse, this seemed like a great move.

Right away, we were notified of the store's "buy online, pick up in store" policy, which caught our attention. For people who don't have much time to browse, this seemed like a great move.

We also learned about the Kohl's app right away, which lets customers save while they shop.

We also learned about the Kohl's app right away, which lets customers save while they shop.

Later in our journey, we would also find a kiosk to help shoppers look up and order different Kohl's products online.

Later in our journey, we would also find a kiosk to help shoppers look up and order different Kohl's products online.

Kohl's sells everything from clothes to kitchen appliances — to help the shopping process, the store provided trendy shopping carts to use while we shopped.

Kohl's sells everything from clothes to kitchen appliances — to help the shopping process, the store provided trendy shopping carts to use while we shopped.

We checked out the women's section first, which was boasting attire for every occasion.

We checked out the women's section first, which was boasting attire for every occasion.

The women's section was pretty large, but we couldn't shake the feeling that everything on display was blatantly out of style.

The women's section was pretty large, but we couldn't shake the feeling that everything on display was blatantly out of style.

It was hard to find anything that looked like it fit in a current fashion trend. This two-piece Vera Wang pajama set was pretty dull — and it cost $56, which seemed absurd.

It was hard to find anything that looked like it fit in a current fashion trend. This two-piece Vera Wang pajama set was pretty dull — and it cost $56, which seemed absurd.

Still, we did find some good sales throughout the section. The Vera Wang sleepwear was having a buy one, get one 50% off sale.

Still, we did find some good sales throughout the section. The Vera Wang sleepwear was having a buy one, get one 50% off sale.

In the kid's clearance section, we found a whole lot of mess awaiting us. Racks were completely overcrowded ...

In the kid's clearance section, we found a whole lot of mess awaiting us. Racks were completely overcrowded ...

... and merchandise seemed to be spilling to the ground everywhere we looked.

... and merchandise seemed to be spilling to the ground everywhere we looked.

This table of shoes was bursting with boxes and styles for kids, but it wasn't appealing to look at.

This table of shoes was bursting with boxes and styles for kids, but it wasn't appealing to look at.

Still, the offerings were hard to complain about here. We did stumble upon this cute Fortnite sweater for kids originally priced for $40 but on sale.

Still, the offerings were hard to complain about here. We did stumble upon this cute Fortnite sweater for kids originally priced for $40 but on sale.

The aisles were also punctuated with disorganization. It wasn't rare for us to stumble into a cart carrying merchandise.

The aisles were also punctuated with disorganization. It wasn't rare for us to stumble into a cart carrying merchandise.

There were massive shoe sections for women, men, and kids with pretty standard options, from everyday to formalwear.

There were massive shoe sections for women, men, and kids with pretty standard options, from everyday to formalwear.

There were a lot of shoes with brand names, like Nike.

There were a lot of shoes with brand names, like Nike.

In the sports attire section, there was an entire section for Under Armour apparel, an athleticwear company that has had a bit of a hard time winning over the North American market. We would also find some clothes from Nike and Adidas downstairs later on.

In the sports attire section, there was an entire section for Under Armour apparel, an athleticwear company that has had a bit of a hard time winning over the North American market. We would also find some clothes from Nike and Adidas downstairs later on.

Source: Business Insider

Moving on, we made our way to a section full of kitchen appliances.

Moving on, we made our way to a section full of kitchen appliances.

Here. we found everything from blenders to vacuum cleaners.

Here. we found everything from blenders to vacuum cleaners.

We liked the different kitchen displays that highlighted different partnerships between cooking brands and Kohl's.

We liked the different kitchen displays that highlighted different partnerships between cooking brands and Kohl's.

The appliance section was a huge part of Kohl's and we were overall pleased with the offerings here.

The appliance section was a huge part of Kohl's and we were overall pleased with the offerings here.

And the home-goods section was a pleasure to behold, as the shelves were orderly and well-stocked with darling items meant to beautify a house.

And the home-goods section was a pleasure to behold, as the shelves were orderly and well-stocked with darling items meant to beautify a house.

A lot of the items here were on sale, which made the selection even more attractive.

A lot of the items here were on sale, which made the selection even more attractive.

This scented candle display was slightly lacking, but the home section at Kohl's was strong overall and probably one of the strongest sections of the store so far.

This scented candle display was slightly lacking, but the home section at Kohl's was strong overall and probably one of the strongest sections of the store so far.

There was also a nice section of toys and games for kids that featured everything from Legos to sidewalk chalk.

There was also a nice section of toys and games for kids that featured everything from Legos to sidewalk chalk.

We found some red lockers near the back of the store reserved for shoppers who had ordered items online and were picking up their purchases in the store.

We found some red lockers near the back of the store reserved for shoppers who had ordered items online and were picking up their purchases in the store.

Being located in a mall makes declining foot traffic a difficult issue for stores like Kohl's to navigate. Luckily, Kohl's has a secret weapon via its partnership with Amazon, which lets people drop off Amazon returns while in the store.

Being located in a mall makes declining foot traffic a difficult issue for stores like Kohl's to navigate. Luckily, Kohl's has a secret weapon via its partnership with Amazon, which lets people drop off Amazon returns while in the store.

Source: Business Insider

The small station is a brilliant move by Kohl's and has increased store traffic as high as 24%, data from InMarket showed.

The small station is a brilliant move by Kohl's and has increased store traffic as high as 24%, data from InMarket showed.

Nearby, we found a nice luggage section ...

Nearby, we found a nice luggage section ...

... as well as a station of Fitbit wristbands near some backpacks.

... as well as a station of Fitbit wristbands near some backpacks.

Downstairs we found some handbags and the men's clothing department, as well as some more clothing for women.

Downstairs we found some handbags and the men's clothing department, as well as some more clothing for women.

The items here were pretty standard and a lot of them felt woefully out of style again. Overall, the messy store and out-of-style offerings at Kohl's might have contributed to the company's drop in sales. But the in-store add-ons and unique partnership with Amazon seemed to be giving the store a leg-up over its competitors.

The items here were pretty standard and a lot of them felt woefully out of style again. Overall, the messy store and out-of-style offerings at Kohl's might have contributed to the company's drop in sales. But the in-store add-ons and unique partnership with Amazon seemed to be giving the store a leg-up over its competitors.

Next, we stopped by JCPenney, which was located in the same mall just a short walk away.

Next, we stopped by JCPenney, which was located in the same mall just a short walk away.

We started our journey on the second floor, which included sections for jewelry, accessories, and men's and women's clothes and shoes. Like Kohl's, the first section we walked into was the women's section, which was rather similar to the one at Kohl's.

We started our journey on the second floor, which included sections for jewelry, accessories, and men's and women's clothes and shoes. Like Kohl's, the first section we walked into was the women's section, which was rather similar to the one at Kohl's.

Nothing really jumped out to us here, but we did notice some options that seemed somewhat stylish, like this wraparound yellow top for $37.

Nothing really jumped out to us here, but we did notice some options that seemed somewhat stylish, like this wraparound yellow top for $37.

There was a sizable collection of formal eveningwear in JCPenney, but the options looked like they were catering to a slightly older demographic. We also began to notice that a lot of items were on sale.

There was a sizable collection of formal eveningwear in JCPenney, but the options looked like they were catering to a slightly older demographic. We also began to notice that a lot of items were on sale.

But some things were still expensive. This two-piece maroon evening gown was listed at $120.

But some things were still expensive. This two-piece maroon evening gown was listed at $120.

In the shoe department, we found a large supply of Nike sneakers, as we did in Kohl's.

In the shoe department, we found a large supply of Nike sneakers, as we did in Kohl's.

For many pairs of shoes, there was a buy one, get one 50% off deal available.

For many pairs of shoes, there was a buy one, get one 50% off deal available.

Moving on, we found a large jewelry section that had everything from earrings to necklaces.

Moving on, we found a large jewelry section that had everything from earrings to necklaces.

There were also a lot of stylish watches that were 25% off for holders of the JCPenney credit card.

There were also a lot of stylish watches that were 25% off for holders of the JCPenney credit card.

One of the more interesting features of JCPenney was this in-store Sephora. JCPenney relies on this partnership between the two stores to increase foot traffic. When we were there, it was pretty empty.

One of the more interesting features of JCPenney was this in-store Sephora. JCPenney relies on this partnership between the two stores to increase foot traffic. When we were there, it was pretty empty.

Source: Business Insider

In the sport section, we found items from a bunch of major athletic-wear companies including Nike and Adidas.

In the sport section, we found items from a bunch of major athletic-wear companies including Nike and Adidas.

Interestingly, we found a well-stocked plus-size section at JCPenney, complete with mannequins that were modeling the offerings.

Interestingly, we found a well-stocked plus-size section at JCPenney, complete with mannequins that were modeling the offerings.

We hadn't seen such an obvious section for plus-size clothes in Kohl's, so this was definitely a win for JCPenney.

We hadn't seen such an obvious section for plus-size clothes in Kohl's, so this was definitely a win for JCPenney.

Elsewhere, we saw a typical-sized mannequin that was missing her hands.

Elsewhere, we saw a typical-sized mannequin that was missing her hands.

... as well as some legs that seemed to be missing their pants.

... as well as some legs that seemed to be missing their pants.

The clearance section was clearly marked with flashy yellow signs that let us know we'd be able to find good deals. Nothing stood out to us here, but at least the area looked organized.

The clearance section was clearly marked with flashy yellow signs that let us know we'd be able to find good deals. Nothing stood out to us here, but at least the area looked organized.

Some handbags were also on clearance, and though the options here were somewhat bland, the prices were definitely exciting.

Some handbags were also on clearance, and though the options here were somewhat bland, the prices were definitely exciting.

In the men's section, we found all the basics, from swimwear ...

In the men's section, we found all the basics, from swimwear ...

... to jeans.

... to jeans.

This sparkly blazer for $140 was definitely not our look, but it added some vibrancy to the offerings in the store.

This sparkly blazer for $140 was definitely not our look, but it added some vibrancy to the offerings in the store.

The selection of graphic tees with references to pop culture was the most appealing part of the men's section — to us, at least.

The selection of graphic tees with references to pop culture was the most appealing part of the men's section — to us, at least.

We found multiple tables with different shirts, referencing everything from old movies to brands. Plus, a lot of them were on clearance.

We found multiple tables with different shirts, referencing everything from old movies to brands. Plus, a lot of them were on clearance.

Though there were a lot of sales, we couldn't help but notice how empty the store felt.

Though there were a lot of sales, we couldn't help but notice how empty the store felt.

We made our way downstairs to check out the home-goods, kid's, and intimates sections. We started in the home section, where we found some nice dining sets, again on sale.

We made our way downstairs to check out the home-goods, kid's, and intimates sections. We started in the home section, where we found some nice dining sets, again on sale.

Nothing jumped out to us here — everything was pretty basic and the designs didn't excite us like the ones at Kohl's.

Nothing jumped out to us here — everything was pretty basic and the designs didn't excite us like the ones at Kohl's.

Plus, certain sections left a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness.

Plus, certain sections left a lot to be desired in terms of cleanliness.

We did find some interesting pieces though, like these coffee mugs with religious overtones, going for about $7 each.

We did find some interesting pieces though, like these coffee mugs with religious overtones, going for about $7 each.

Plus there was a large selection of decorative pillows ...

Plus there was a large selection of decorative pillows ...

... as well as basic kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors.

... as well as basic kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors.

Overall, JCPenney had everything needed to fill a home, from bath ...

Overall, JCPenney had everything needed to fill a home, from bath ...

... to bed.

... to bed.

The toy section was notable for its massive collection of Disney toys from hit films like "Aladdin" and "Frozen." The selection of plush toys was cute, but a bit disorganized.

The toy section was notable for its massive collection of Disney toys from hit films like "Aladdin" and "Frozen." The selection of plush toys was cute, but a bit disorganized.

Nearby, we found a large kid's apparel section, complete with a nice array sparkly of Converse sneakers.

Nearby, we found a large kid's apparel section, complete with a nice array sparkly of Converse sneakers.

As well as an in-store salon, no doubt designed to increase foot traffic.

As well as an in-store salon, no doubt designed to increase foot traffic.

There was also a portrait center for people to get their own headshots or family photos.

There was also a portrait center for people to get their own headshots or family photos.

Like Kohl's JCPenney had the option to order online and pick up in the store. We didn't notice any handy lockers for customers to pick up their purchases, but there was a kiosk in the store devoted to this feature.

Like Kohl's JCPenney had the option to order online and pick up in the store. We didn't notice any handy lockers for customers to pick up their purchases, but there was a kiosk in the store devoted to this feature.

There were checkout counters all throughout the store, but some of them were left completely unattended.

There were checkout counters all throughout the store, but some of them were left completely unattended.

JCPenney and Kohl's has similar features when it came to organization and offerings. However, the measures Kohl's had taken to boost traffic online and in stores made it clear why it is outperforming JCPenney, whose in-store Sephora, salon, and portrait center just aren't cutting it.

JCPenney and Kohl's has similar features when it came to organization and offerings. However, the measures Kohl's had taken to boost traffic online and in stores made it clear why it is outperforming JCPenney, whose in-store Sephora, salon, and portrait center just aren't cutting it.
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