Reinventing the department store

CEO Ron Johnson, who came to JC Penney from from cutting-edge retail powerhouse Apple, shows Anna Werner the layout of the new JCP stores.

(CBS News) So, WHAT'S IN STORE for shoppers this holiday season? Lots and lots of choices for one thing, including a choice of what sort of STORE you'd like to buy from. And these days one type of store in particular is struggling to hold its own. Our Sunday Morning Cover Story is reported now by Anna Werner:

It's the season for buying.

This holiday season's sales are expected to ring in at nearly $600 billion, as shoppers flood online giants like Amazon, discount stores like Costco, and big box stores like Wal-Mart

Where do fewer people seem to be getting their gifts? Department stores.

It's a far cry from the days of "Miracle on 34th Street," where shoppers flocked to Macy's for their holiday needs.

"A department store was an emporium that carried everything for everybody," said Michael Lisicky, a department store historian. "It really was the social center of the city."

Lisicky can rattle off the names of department stores that have gone out of business in the past 50 years - Marshall Field's, Gimbel's, Wanamaker's.

Just look at the list of the big merchants of the mid-sixties. Only ONE of the stores - Macy's - still exists today.

"The era of the department store has passed and I don't know that it's ever coming back," he said.

Which brings us to JC Penney: The 110-year-old merchandiser is struggling to find its way.

Enter new CEO Ron Johnson, who came here from cutting-edge retail powerhouse, Apple.

"My dream is to bring the department store back to its glory," Johnson said. "The department store is really part of the fabric of the community."

His assignment: To make a store founded in Wyoming by James Cash Penney back in 1902 a shopping destination all over again.

"Today we all shop everywhere," Johnson said. "We go to Target for some things. We go to The Gap for some things. We go online to Amazon. We all shop around. There's very little loyalty today in American retail.

"To earn loyalty you've got to do more than help them buy. You've got to become a part of their life."

So for the past year, Johnson has been working to transform all 1,100 stores in 50 states 21st century state-of-the-art store he's calling "JCP."

"We're here today in the future JCP," Johnson said. "We're going to transition JC Penney from a promotional department, or what we call a specialty department store, which is an entirely new way to shop."

His plan, as he showed us in the prototype store in Dallas, is to entice customers with "shops" within his JCP stores, creating a mini-mall in each store.

The store contains, not "aisles," but "streets." "It's a place to be, and it becomes the new navigation path for shopping, because in the age of the Internet, you've got to more than be a place to buy. You've got to be a place people love to be. And so the street allows you to kind of do things that you couldn't do elsewhere."