J.C. Penney (OTC:JCPN.Q) seemingly faces a make-or-break holiday season. The struggling retailer saw a steep 5.4% comparable-store sales drop in its most recent quarter, which ups the pressure on new CEO Jill Soltau to show the chain has a path to recovery.

That's perhaps not fair, given that she only took over in mid-October, but it's a reality for a company that has been sliding into irrelevance. Soltau certainly knows that the chain needs to deliver promising holiday sales to encourage investors and to keep vendors convinced that it will have the cash to pay for upcoming orders.

Here's what the company has planned for Black Friday.

The exterior of a J.C. Penney.

J.C. Penney has already started some of its holiday deals. Image source: Getty Images.

The sales have started

The struggling retailer kicked off its "Value the Present" holiday season sales on Nov. 4. Chief Marketing Officer Marci Grebstein explained the concept behind the promotion in a press release:

When the holiday season comes around, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Whether you are prepping your home, attending countless holiday parties or checking off never-ending gift lists, it's important to remember the value of being present. JCPenney has thoughtfully curated a compelling assortment of boots, diamond jewelry, toys, kitchen electrics, tech gadgets, beauty items and more that were all designed to make gift giving easy so shoppers can focus on what's most important: spending time and making memories with family and friends.

That sounds nice, but it's not the type of sentiment that's likely to send shoppers flocking to the retailer. Fortunately, the chain has other offers on the table designed to lure customers in.

J.C. Penney will open at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers who come out on the holiday will be handed an envelope as they enter the store containing a coupon that will give them (while supplies last) either $10 off a purchase of $10 or more, $100 off a purchase of $100 or more, or $500 off a purchase of $500 or more. Of course, the company hopes people spend more than the coupon amount.

Stores will stay open straight through 10 p.m. on Black Friday, and then reopen on Saturday at 8 a.m. Saturday customers will get a coupon (while supplies last) giving them $10 off a purchase of at least $10.

Sales have already begun on JCPenney.com, but the full set of offers won't be available online until Wednesday, Nov. 21. The company has also expanded its new toy section, and has added baby sections, both in an attempt to capture former Toys/Babies R Us customers.

A referendum on the future

Unlike rival Sears Holdings, which thought that shrinking was its only path to success, J.C. Penney has made a ton of changes. The company has mixed up its merchandise, revamped its in-store spas, added store-within-a-store Sephora shops, added appliances/electronics, and moved into toys/babies.

Those moves all made sense, but they haven't really worked so far. That makes this holiday season a sort of referendum on whether a need for J.C. Penney exists. It's possible, maybe even likely at this point, that consumers have moved on. If that's the case, then this could be a last hurrah for the storied chain. 

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