Things aren't looking great for JCPenney and Sears.

Though practically bedrocks of American retail, both stores have fallen on hard times.

Sears chairman Eddie Lampert bought the company in February to help it avoid liquidation, but the company recently laid off 250 employees at its corporate headquarters and announced multiple store closures across the country.

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

JCPenney is also struggling, and has struggled to grow sales and growth. The company reported a 9% same-store sales decrease for the second quarter of 2019 and had plans to close 27 stores in 13 states .

Both Sears and JCPenney are struggling and the proof is in the stores. We shopped at both and saw messy aisles, lots of sales, and broken mannequins galore.

Overall however, JCPenney was in better shape than Sears for a few key reasons, including better offerings in certain departments and multiple in-store centers like a salon and portrait center.

Here's what we saw:

First, we stopped by a JCPenney in a Jersey City, New Jersey mall.

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We entered through the second floor, which included the jewelry, accessories, and men's and women's clothing sections. We started browsing in the women's section.

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Here, we found a lot of basic items with muted tones. Overall, everything seemed pretty conservative in terms of style.

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However, we did find this eye-catching yellow wraparound top for $37.

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For the most part, the options in the women's section seemed to be catering to an older crowd.

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A lot of items in the dress section were on sale, but some of them were still somewhat expensive, like this two-piece maroon evening gown that was listed at $120.

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In the shoe section, we found everything from sneakers to heels, plus a prominent display of shoes from the Nike brand. There was a "buy one, get one 50% off" deal for many pairs of shoes.

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JCPenney had a large jewelry selection that had some appealing options. We loved the colors we saw in this display.

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We also found a similarly colorful display of watches, which were 25% off for JCPenney credit cardholders.

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Interestingly, we stumbled upon a Sephora store in the middle of JCPenney. This partnership between the two stores was designed to increase foot traffic, though when we were there, it was pretty empty.

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The athletic-wear section was notable for its wide array of leading brands that we saw represented, from Nike ...

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... to Adidas.

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JCPenney had a plus-size section that had everything from athletic-wear to work attire.

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There were a lot of options in this section, some of which were prominently displayed on different mannequins.

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In the clearance section, large yellow signs indicated "final take" sales and the whole area was surprisingly organized.

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Nearby, we found a mannequin who seemed to be missing her hands ...

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... and a pair of legs that seemed to be missing some pants.

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A lot of accessories were included in the store's massive sales. But again, a lot of things seemed at least slightly out of style.

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The men's section had everything we expected, plus a few interesting additions. There were the basics, like jeans and sweaters ...

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... but we also found some louder pieces as well, like this sparkly blazer for $140.

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The swimwear section also had some louder options. We found these lemon swimming trunks adorable

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But our favorite parts of the men's section were the multiple tables of graphic tees, featuring vintage logos and references to brands and other pop-culture icons.

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We found a checkout counter on this floor, but it was unmanned. Next, we headed downstairs to look at the home-goods, kids, and intimates sections.

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We started in the home section, where we immediately ran into some darling dining room sets.

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It was hard to think of something that JCPenney didn't have in this section. We found everything from blenders and food processors ...

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... to towels and bedding.

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For the most part, the home section was nice, yet somewhat basic.

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Though we did find some cuter items, like these religiously inspired coffee mugs going for about $7 each ...

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... and this wall of decorative pillows that caught our eyes with its bright hues and fluffy textures.

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Still, some areas in the home section were certainly messier than others.

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There was a massive section of toys, many of which featured characters from various Disney movies. There were also large sections of kid's shoes and clothing nearby.

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We noticed that JCPenney had a lot of interesting store add-ons that seemed to be part of an effort to boost foot traffic in the store. We found a portrait center ...

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... as well as an in-store salon.

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JCPenney also offers customers the option to order online and then pick up their purchases in the store and we found a kiosk devoted to this very feature.

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JCPenney might not have had the most stylish options, but the in-store add-ons were definitely a smart way to attract customers with diverse interests. The sales at JCPenney were also a massive bonus.

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Next, we headed to a Sears in New York's Flatbush neighborhood the last location left in New York City.

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We had to walk through a parking lot for a bit until we found the entrance to the store.

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Like JCPenney, we started our shopping in the women's section, where we shuffled through overcrowded racks that gave the store a similar look to a Marshalls or TJ Maxx.

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A lot of the merchandise we found looked pretty tacky and out of style.

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Even the mannequins some of which were missing arms couldn't make some pieces look good, which is never a good sign.

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However, the prices were overall extremely low. We could not believe how cheap some things were, despite the tacky designs.

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A lot of the sections had green signs that let us know the store was having a blowout event. The accompanying sales were off the charts.

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Some of these signs had hand-written prices on them, which was slightly unprofessional. We also found only women's bathing suits in this section labeled "men's," which didn't help.

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Other unprofessional features permeated the store, like this lone fan in the middle of the floor of the women's section.

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We couldn't shake the element of tackiness that seemed to lurk all around the store. These hats looked more like costume pieces than serious headwear options.

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And these odd-looking vases on various shelves seemed out of place.

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The accessories section was also problematic. Items were spilling out of various cardboard boxes that were situated on carts with wheels.

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When it came to the men's section, the offerings mostly met our expectations. There were great sections for jeans and T-shirts.

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We were let down with the athletic-wear section. We found some items from Champion, but a store associate told us that Sears did not carry major brands like Nike or Adidas, which was a let-down.

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However, we were totally taken by surprise when we found a section devoted to neon traffic vests and construction attire.

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The shoe section at Sears wasn't huge, but the prices were low overall. The most memorable part of this section was the small display of Crocs.

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Read more: I hated Crocs more than anyone, but just one visit to its store helped me understand why the brand is doing so well

There were multiple jewelry stands located throughout the aisles on the first floor, but we found a central jewelry counter in the middle, advertising the store's semi-annual jewelry and watch sale.

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We learned a bit about the Sears membership program through this unmanned kiosk.

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We also saw some monitors set up to assist customers in their search for items they couldn't find in the store.

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Next, we headed upstairs to check out the home and kid's sections.

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The home section here was definitely more basic than the one at JCPenney. We found the necessities here, but there was little else to excite us beyond utility.

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These pots and pans would probably get the job done, but they were nothing special to look at.

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Some areas in the home section were almost completely empty.

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And other areas nearby were filled with clutter.

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A sign informed us of a nice feature that would let us order items with free shipping if we didn't find what we wanted in the store.

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In the kid's section, we found a toy area comparable to the one at JCPenney, though it seemed like there was less Disney merchandise overall.

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Like JCPenney, Sears had a plus-size section.

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Near the intimates department, we found a huge section of nightgowns. The display seemed oddly large for a clothing type that we had assumed was mostly out of style.

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The checkout counter on this floor was empty, not unlike the one we had seen in JCPenney.

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Our last stop at Sears was the bottom floor which housed all the major appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers.

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On this floor, we walked by an optical center, the first in-store add-on we had found at Sears since we arrived.

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Half of this floor housed a Kmart store, which is owned by Transform Holdco the company formed to acquire Sears Holding's assets, and the same parent company as Sears. This Kmart section was notably different from the rest of the store and seemed better kept overall.

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Overall, Sears offered less than JCPenney in terms of merchandise and in-store add-ons. Though both stores were messy, JCPenney won us over with its charming home-goods selection and its salon, portrait center, and Sephora.

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See Also:

SEE ALSO: We shopped at Sears and Kohl's and both were overwhelmingly messy. Here's why Kohl's is still better to shop at.