J.C. Penney has begun accepting Apple Pay in stores nationwide, while also integrating its store-branded credit card with Apple Pay so customers joining its recently-launched loyalty program can continue to earn loyalty points when using Apple Pay, according to a Dallas News report.
Store customers can pay in-store with Apple Pay by holding their iPhones or Apple watches up to checkout line payment terminal.
The retailer also said it will soon allow iPhone and iPad users to pay for items with Apple Pay while shopping in the J.C. Penney mobile app, which includes a mobile app and was recently updated.
This is a pretty major step for J.C. Penney, which has quickly become one of the few retailers to do a full-on integration of its store-branded payment card and loyalty points access with Apple Pay. Ultimately, that's in the best interests of customers, who can more easily use their loyalty points during Apple Pay transactions. It's also great for the retailer, which can encourage customers to fund their Apple Pay wallets with J.C. Penney's store-branded card. Apple must love the idea, too, considering the loyalty integration also encourages more use of its platform.
Still, J.C. Penney took its sweet time getting to this point. It was reported by Apple Insider back in late 2015 that the retailer was running a pilot program of Apple Pay in a Dallas-Ft. Worth area store. Speculation at the time suggested the retailer could integrate with Apple Pay as early as the spring of 2016, but it seems delays have pushed back the launch until now. Perhaps the retailer decided to monitor Apple Pay's progress for a bit before making a big commitment — early 2016 was a time when growth of the platform seemed to be proceeding slowly. But according to Apple, transactions on Apple Pay have boomed since then — surging 450% over the past year.
In any case, this is still an important move, as it puts J.C. Penney's payment and loyalty capabilities through Apple Pay on par with one of its key department store competitors — Kohls — which announced a similar integration in May 2016 while J.C. Penney apparently was still weighing its options.
In recent months, J.C. Penney has been trying hard to distance itself from past struggles. An upturn in sale convinced the company to delay some planned store closings, and it has since made some definitive changes in other areas, such as opening new toy shops in its stores and expanding its toy assortment online. Earlier this month, at the same time it announced the departure of CFO Edward Record, the retailer also said it was revamping and expanding its loyalty program.
The embrace of Apple Pay was likely already well in the works at that point, but the juxtaposition of the announcements suggests J.C. Penney is rethinking some of its financial strategy right down to its customer-facing payments and loyalty programs.