J. C. Penney

This article is about the department store chain. For its founder, see James Cash Penney. For the Irish retail chain branded Penneys, see Primark.
J. C. Penney Company
Traded as NYSE: JCP
Industry Retail
Founded April 14, 1902 (1902-04-14)
Kemmerer, Wyoming, U.S.
Founders James Cash Penney
Headquarters 6501 Legacy Drive, Plano, Texas, United States
Number of locations
1,060 (2010)
Area served
Key people
  • Clothing
  • cosmetics
  • electronics
  • footwear
  • furniture
  • housewares
  • jewelry
  • appliances
Website www.jcpenney.com
Footnotes / references

The J. C. Penney Company, doing business as JCPenney, is a department store with 1,060 locations in 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.[4] In addition to selling conventional merchandise, JCPenney stores often house several leased departments such as Sephora, Seattle's Best Coffee, salons, optical centers, portrait studios, and jewelry repair.

Most JCPenney stores are located in suburban shopping malls. Before 1966, most of its stores were located in downtown areas. As shopping malls became more popular during the latter half of the 20th century, JCPenney followed the trend by relocating and developing stores to anchor the malls. In more recent years, the chain has continued to follow consumer traffic, echoing the retailing trend of opening some freestanding stores, including some next door to competitors. Certain stores are located in power centers. The company has been an Internet retailer since 1998. It has streamlined its catalog and distribution while undergoing renovation improvements at store level.


1902–59: Early history and incorporation

J.C. Penney mother store in Kemmerer, Wyoming in September 2007.

James Cash Penney was born in Hamilton, Missouri. After graduating from high school, Penney worked for a local retailer. He relocated to Colorado at the advice of a doctor, hoping that a better climate would improve his health.[5] In 1898, Penney went to work for Thomas Callahan and Guy Johnson, who owned dry goods stores called Golden Rule stores in Colorado and Wyoming.[6] In 1899, Callahan sent Penney to Evanston, Wyoming, to work with Johnson in another Golden Rule store.[6] Callahan and Johnson asked Penney to join them in opening a new Golden Rule store. Using money from savings and a loan, Penney joined the partnership and moved with his wife and infant son to Kemmerer, Wyoming, to start his own store.[6] Penney opened the store on April 14, 1902.[6] He participated in the creation of two more stores, and purchased full interest in all three locations when Callahan and Johnson dissolved their partnership in 1907. In 1909, Penney moved his company headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah to be closer to banks and railroads. By 1912, Penney had 34 stores in the Rocky Mountain States. In 1913, all stores were consolidated under the J.C. Penney banner. The so-called "mother store", in Kemmerer, opened as the chain's second location in 1904. It still operates, as of 2011, albeit with shorter hours than many other locations.

In 1913, the company was incorporated under the new name, J. C. Penney Company, with William Henry McManus as a co-founder. In 1914, the headquarters was moved to New York City to simplify buying, financing, and transportation of goods.[7] By 1917, the company operated 175 stores in 22 states in the United States. J. C. Penney acquired The Crescent Corset Company in 1920, the company's first wholly owned subsidiary. In 1922, the company's oldest active private brand, Big Mac work clothes, was launched. The company opened its 500th store in 1924 in Hamilton, Missouri, James Cash Penney's hometown. By the opening of the 1,000th store in 1928, gross business had reached $190,000,000 (equivalent to $2.62 billion in 2016).

In 1940, Sam Walton began working at a J. C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa. Walton later went on to found future retailer Walmart in 1962.[8] By 1941, J.C. Penney operated 1,600 stores in all 48 states. In 1956, J. C. Penney started national advertising with a series of advertisements in Life magazine. J. C. Penney credit cards were first issued in 1959.

1960–79: Growth and success

The Penney Building in Anchorage in 1964, following the earthquake.
The former Downtown Seattle store in 1982, with signage from the period when the chain was branded as Penneys and used a more stylized font in its logo. Pike Place Market is in the background.

In 1962, J. C. Penney entered discount merchandising with the acquisition of General Merchandise Company which gave them The Treasury stores. These discount operations proved unsuccessful and were shuttered in 1981. In 1963, J. C. Penney issued its first catalog. The company operated in-store catalog desks in eight states. The catalogs were distributed by the Milwaukee Catalog distribution center.

The company dedicated its first full-line, shopping center department store in 1961. This store was located at Black Horse Pike Center, in Audubon, New Jersey. The second full line shopping center store was dedicated, at King of Prussia Plaza, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania in late 1962. Those stores expanded the lines of merchandise and services that an average J. C. Penney carried to include appliances, sporting goods, garden merchandise, restaurants, beauty salons, portrait studios, auto parts and auto centers.

J. C. Penney expanded to include Alaska and Hawaii in the 1960s. The company opened stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska in 1962. The Penney Building in Anchorage partially collapsed and was damaged beyond repair in the 1964 Alaska earthquake.[9][10] The company rebuilt the store as a shorter building on a larger footprint, and followed up by building Anchorage's first public parking garage, which opened in 1968.[11] In 1966, J. C. Penney "finished" its national expansion with the opening of its Honolulu, Hawaii store, at Ala Moana Center (all Hawaii stores were closed in 2003). The Penney store at Plaza Las Américas mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which opened in 1968, featured three levels and 261,500 square feet (24,290 m2). It was the largest J. C. Penney, until a 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) store was dedicated at Greater Chicago's Woodfield Mall in 1971. The Woodfield Mall store served as the largest in the chain until a replacement store opened at Plaza Las Américas in 1998, which is 350,000 square feet (33,000 m2) in size. In 1969, the company acquired Thrift Drug, a chain of drugstores headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It also acquired Supermarkets Interstate, an Omaha-based food retailer which operated leased departments in J. C. Penney stores, The Treasury stores, and Thrift Drug stores.

On February 12, 1971, James Cash Penney died at the age of 95. Out of respect for his death, the company's stores were closed for the morning of February 16 during his funeral.[12] That year, the company's revenues reached $5 billion (equivalent to $29.3 billion in 2016) for the first time and catalog business made a profit for the first time.[13]

JCPenney reached its peak number of stores in 1973, with 2,053 stores, 300 of which were full-line establishments.[13] However, the company was hard hit by the 1974 recession with its stock price declining by two-thirds.[13] In 1977, J. C. Penney sold its stores in Italy to La Rinascente and also removed its Supermarkets Interstate leased departments. In 1980, The company closed the Treasury discount stores because they were unprofitable and decided to focus resources on its core retail stores.[13]

In 1978, the J. C. Penney Historic District in Kemmerer, Wyoming, was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark. In 1979, the Visa card began to be accepted in JCPenney stores. MasterCard was accepted the following year.[13]

1980–99: Acquisitions and internet store

JCPenney in Aventura Mall in Aventura, Florida in February 2006.
JCPenney was a major online retailer on Viewtron during the 1980s

In 1983, JCPenney discontinued its appliance, hardware and auto center departments, and also sold its automotive centers to Firestone. Also in 1983, JCPenney began selling online through the Viewtron videotex service. In 1984, JCPenney acquired the First National Bank of Harrington, Delaware and renamed it JCPenney National Bank. With the bank the company became able to issue its own MasterCard and Visa cards. The company also began accepting American Express cards. Also that year, Thrift Drug began co-locating stores with Weis Markets, and acquired many former Pantry Pride properties. In April 1987, the company announced that it was moving its headquarters to Dallas, Texas.[14] After several years of development, the JCPenney Television Shopping Channel appeared on cable systems beginning in 1989.

By the mid-1980s, all JCPenney stores had discontinued sales of firearms. Before this point, JCPenney carried rifles and shotguns branded as JCPenney but produced by numerous established firearms manufacturers.

JCPenney big-box store in Houston, Texas in October 2009.
JCPenney headquarters in Plano, Texas.

In 1990, the company broke ground with the new corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas. It was completed in 1992. When Sears closed its catalog business in 1993, J. C. Penney became the largest catalog retailer in the United States. In 1996, the company expanded its drug store business with the acquisition of Fay's Drug and Kerr Drug. These acquisitions momentum climaxed with acquisition of the Eckerd chain in November. Fay's, Kerr, and Eckerd merged into J. C. Penney's drug store subsidiary Thrift Drug. Fay's, most Kerr, and Thrift drug stores were re-branded Eckerd in 1997. (Kerr Drug stores in The Carolinas remain branded as such.)[15]

In 1998, JCPenney launched its Internet store. In early 2001, JCPenney closed 44 under-performing stores. On April 14, 2002, JCPenney celebrated 100 years as a retailer. In 2003, the company opened three off-the-mall stores in strip centers. These stores were located in Texas, Minnesota, and Indiana. The new one-level, 94,000 sq ft (8,700 m2) format stores focus on convenience with wider aisles and centralized checkouts.[16]

2000–09: Continued growth and success

JCPenney in the Holiday Village Mall in Great Falls, Montana in June 2007.

In 2001, JCPenney sold their direct-marketing insurance unit to Dutch insurer Aegon for $1.3 billion (equivalent to $1.74 billion in 2016) in cash. This was an attempt to allow the company to focus on the retail business.[17]

In 2004, the company added 14 more stores and exited the drug store division after 35 years, with the sale of its Eckerd division. In 2005, JCPenney's e-commerce storefront exceeded the one-billion dollar revenue mark for the first time.

In 2007, JCPenney launched the Ambrielle lingerie label, which became their largest private brand launched in the company's history.[18] J. C. Penney also re-introduced cosmetics with the opening of Sephora "stores-within-a-store" inside some J. C. Penney locations. Beginning in 2007 the store slogan changed from "It's All Inside" to "Every Day Matters"; the new slogan and associated ad campaign was launched in television commercials during the 79th Academy Awards in late February 2007.

JCPenney Financial Services direct marketing division was sold off in the early 2000s. ruler was given to employees to emphasize the Golden Rule.

After JCPenney sold off Eckerd in 2004, the locations that continued to operate as Eckerd (some locations in the Southern U.S. were sold to CVS Corporation) still had JCPenney Catalog Centers inside the stores (which was a carryover from locations that were once Thrift Drug) and also continued to accept JCPenney credit cards. After Rite Aid finalized its acquisition of Eckerd in 2007, the Catalog Centers inside the soon-to-be-converted stores permanently closed, although as a result of the acquisition, Rite Aid now accepts JCPenney credit cards, even at Rite Aid locations that existed before the takeover of Eckerd.

In November 2007, the company launched a new public website, JCPenneyBrands.com, which covers the company's private and exclusive brands, and their branding strategy, with a preview of an upcoming product line. In February 2008, the company launched the "American Living" brand, as developed by Ralph Lauren, across several product lines, including Men's, Women's, and Children's Apparel and Shoes, Intimate Apparel, and Home. The launch, which was accompanied by an ad campaign during the 2008 Academy Awards, was the company's largest private brand launch.[19] American Living for infant apparel was launched in July 2008. In the summer of 2008, J. C. Penney also added a new brand to its home collection, "Linden Street." The Linden Street brand features a contemporary lifestyle collection of furniture, domestics, and home decor. Linden Street is sold exclusively in JCPenney stores and through their website. Other new exclusive brands for juniors and young men's were launched in the summer of 2008. They included a relaunch of Le Tigre, along with Decree, and Fabulosity, a junior line of clothing by Kimora Lee Simmons.

In July 2009, new additions were made to the JCPenney young men's department, including an expansion of their private brand Decree (previously exclusively a juniors clothing line) and the introduction of more skate/surf-oriented clothing, including Rusty, RS by Ryan Sheckler, and 3rd Rail. In August 2009, Albert Gonzalez's defense lawyer announced JCPenney was a victim of the computer hacker, although JCPenney stated that no customers' credit card information had been stolen.[20] In September 2010, JCPenney had joined Facebook to help promote their "Care, Share, Win" campaign. Since 1999, JCPenney has donated $100 million to after school care. Fans of JCPenney on Facebook can help decide which school will receive the next million dollars.

In 2009, JCPenney reached an agreement with Seattle's Best Coffee to feature full-service cafes within leased departments inside JCPenney stores across the country. Currently, Seattle's Best Coffee are still expanding cafe locations within JCPenney locations across the country.

2010–present: Rebranding and decline

A two-story J. C. Penney at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, Texas in January 2013, opened in 2000.
J.C. Penney offices in Salt Lake City, Utah

On January 24, 2011, JCPenney announced it would exit the catalog business and close all 19 of its catalog outlet stores.[21] An additional seven stores, two call center facilities, and one customer decorating facility would also be closed.[21] One of the JCPenney Outlet Stores that closed, at Franklin Mills Mall (now Philadelphia Mills Mall), in Philadelphia, PA, was replaced on March 2, 2012 by a regular JCPenney store.

On February 12, 2011, The New York Times exposed the company's use of link schemes—"spamdexing"—to increase the JCPenney web site's ranking in Google search results, especially during the holiday season. Doug Pierce, an expert in online search, described the optimization as "the most ambitious attempt to game Google's search results that he has ever seen." Ultimately, Google took retaliatory action and drastically reduced the visibility of JCPenney in searches. Although the retailer denied any involvement, it fired its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex.[22]

In June 2011, JCPenney announced that Ron Johnson would become the company's new CEO.[23] In October 2011, JCPenney sold the 15 remaining catalog outlet stores to SB Capital Group. These stores will remain open then transition to JC's 5 Star Outlets.[24] On December 7, 2011, JCPenney announced the acquisition of 16.6 percent of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia stock. JCPenney plans to put "mini-Martha Stewart shops" in many of its stores in 2013, as well as starting a website together.[25]

In January 2012, the company's chief operating office at the time, Michael Kramer, revealed to the Wall Street Journal that more than 30 percent of the bandwidth of JCPenney's headquarters was used for the viewing of YouTube videos during that month alone. Kramer consequently terminated the tenures of 1600 employees to change the company's workplace culture.[26]

On February 1, 2012, JCPenney began a new pricing method, with "Every Day" prices on most days reflecting what used to be sale prices, "Monthly Value" for certain items every month in place of sales, and "Best Price" the first and third Fridays of each month, tied to paydays.[27][28] Prices would also not end in 9 or 7, instead using whole figures when pricing items.[29] The changes in the stores include a focus on the mini-stores such as those for Martha Stewart products.

In April 2012, the company announced plans to trim its workforce, laying off nearly 13% of its home office staff in Dallas, and closing a call center in Pittsburgh. Many managers, supervisors and long-time employees were let go on April 30, 2012.[30] In June 2012, the company announced that Michael Francis, the company's president, was leaving the company, after only eight months on the job, effective immediately.[31] In July 2012, the company announced that it was laying off 350 more workers at its headquarters.[32]

In August 2012, JCPenney began rolling out a Shops strategy in stores. The shops are described as stores-within-a-store, planning to eventually roll out 100 shops in 683 stores. The first shops include Levi's, The Original Arizona Jean Co., and i jeans by Buffalo.[33] That month, the company posted a second quarter comparable-store loss of 22%, with internet sales dropping 33%. At an analyst meeting in New York the same day, Johnson said, "I’m completely convinced that our transformation is on track." JCPenney's stock rose 5.9% on Johnson's comments at the analyst meeting, the largest single-day stock increase since late January 2012.[34] The "secret" prototype store is located on the 3rd floor of the store at Valley View Center in Dallas, which has been closed to the public.

Fourth quarter sales for JCPenney, in 2012, were poor. Sales were off 28.4% from a year earlier, same store sales were down 32%. Strategic choices made by Johnson a year earlier, including the change in pricing strategy, were being called into question.[35]

It was announced in April 2012 that Nickelson Wooster would become the creative director for JCPenney menswear.[36] Wooster stated in an interview with Esquire magazine that his influence on the brand would begin with spring menswear available as of February 2013.[37]

On April 8, 2013, Johnson was fired from JCPenney after 17 months with the company. Mike Ullman, the retailer's former CEO, was announced as his replacement shortly afterwards—the official statement claimed that Ullman was "well-positioned to quickly analyze the situation JCPenney faces and take steps to improve the company’s performance."[38]

In August 2013, William A. Ackman, of Pershing Square Capital Management, continued his efforts to remove Thomas Engibous, the company's Chairman of the Board of Directors.[39] However, Ackman resigned from the board on August 12, 2013 and two new directors were subsequently appointed to the board, one of whom is former Macy's vice chairman Ronald Tysoe.[40][41] In his statement, Ackman stated:

During my time on the JCPenney Board of Directors, I have always advocated for what I believe to be in the best interests of the Company—its stockholders, employees and others. At this time, I believe that the addition of two new directors and my stepping down from the Board is the most constructive way forward for JCPenney and all other parties involved.[41]

On September 26, 2013, JCPenney, with Goldman Sachs as the sole underwriter, announced plans to issue 84 million shares of its stock. The move stood in contrast with CEO Mike Ullman's remarks from earlier that day, whereby he did not foresee "conditions for the rest of the year that would warrant raising liquidity." [42][43]

During a November 2013 conference call to Wall Street analysts, Ullman announced that JCP is "restoring initial markups necessary to support the return [to a] promotional department store strategy" with "gross margins, currently 29.5 percent of sales versus 32.5 percent a year ago, were lower due to the impact of clearance sales to eliminate inventory overhang and to transition back to the promotional pricing strategy the company is known for".[44] Ullman is removing the radio frequency identification technology and returning to security tags because shrinkage has "added 100 basis points on margins in the third quarter".[44] Various analysts have mixed reviews of JCP's future.[44]

On December 1, 2013, J.C. Penney was replaced by Allegion in the S&P 500 Index.[45] S&P cited J.C Penney's 37% fall in market value to $2.7 billion (equivalent to $2.75 billion in 2016) was "more representative of the mid-cap market." J.C. Penney replaced Aéropostale from the S&P MidCap 400 Index.

On January 15, 2014, J.C. Penney announced it is closing 33 underperforming stores and laying off 2,000 employees.[46] CEO Mike Ullman explained in a news release, "As we continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth, it is necessary to reexamine the financial performance of our store portfolio and adjust our national footprint accordingly."[47]

In the later parts of 2013, Soros Fund Management sold away over 19 million shares after only owning them for a few months, originally purchasing them in April 2013.[48]

Meanwhile, J.C. Penney's stock has continued its decline until their first quarter results in 2014 showed signs of improvement, and sent the share value back into the double digits.

In October 2014 it was announced that the company would be tapping former Home Depot executive Marvin Ellison to take on the role of CEO starting in November 2014.[49]

In January 2015, it was announced that JCPenney would close 39 underperforming stores nationwide and lay off 2,250 employees.[50] That same year, the company announced that it was liquidating its The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co. chain of standalone clothing stores.

In January 2016, J.C. Penney announced plans to relaunch its business of selling major appliances for kitchens and laundry rooms. The company moved away from selling major appliances in 1983, but it now plans to return to this business in an effort to target a wave of millennials who are buying first-time homes.[51]

Corporate identity

In June 2008, an ad called "Speed Dressing" emerged ending with the JCPenney logo and slogan "Every Day Matters". The ad won a prize at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. The ad was criticized for seeming to promote teen sex. JCPenney denied that the ad was theirs and their advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi reported that it had been created by a third party vendor. It was entered in the competition by Epoch Films, who declined to comment.[52][53] Marketing expert John Tantillo advised that the company distance itself from the commercial and also shed the publicity it engendered.[54]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to J. C. Penney.


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