J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (stylized as JCPenney) is an American department store chain with 864 locations in 49 U.S. states, and Puerto Rico. In addition to selling conventional merchandise, J. C. Penney stores often house several leased departments such as Sephora, Seattle's Best Coffee, salons, auto centers, optical centers, portrait studios, and jewelry repair.
Most J. C. Penney 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 later half of the 20th century, J. C. Penney 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.
1902–1959: Early history and incorporation
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. 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. In 1899, Callahan sent Penney to Evanston, Wyoming, to work with Johnson in another Golden Rule store. 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. Penney opened the store on April 14, 1902. 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 2018, albeit with shorter hours than many other locations, and is closed on Sundays.
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. 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 $2.71 billion in 2018).
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. 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.
1960–1979: Growth and success
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. 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. 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. That year, the company's revenues reached $5 billion (equivalent to $30.3 billion in 2018) for the first time and catalog business made a profit for the first time.J. C. Penney reached its peak number of stores in 1973, with 2,053 stores, 300 of which were full-line establishments. However, the company was hard hit by the 1974 recession with its stock price declining by two-thirds. 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.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 J. C. Penney stores. MasterCard was accepted the following year.
1980–1999: Acquisitions and internet store
In 1983, J. C. Penney discontinued its appliance, hardware and auto center departments, and also sold its automotive centers to Firestone. Also in 1983, J. C. Penney began selling online through the Viewtron videotex service. That same year, fashion designer Roy Halston, signed a six-year, $1 billion deal with J.C. Penney to sell a line of affordable clothing, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes ranging in price from $24 to $200. The move was considered controversial then, as no other high-end designer up that point in time had licensed their designs to a mid-price retailier such as J.C. Penney; the line, called Halston III, would not last long, as it would be poorly received and discontinued after about a year. It would, however, pave the way for other such high-end designers to sell their wares at stores of varying price ranges in the future. In 1984, J. C. Penney acquired the First National Bank of Harrington, Delaware and renamed it J. C. Penney National Bank. With the acquisition of 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. After several years of development, the JCPenney Television Shopping Channel appeared on cable systems beginning in 1989.
By the mid-1980s, all J. C. Penney stores had discontinued sales of firearms. Before this point, J. C. Penney carried rifles and shotguns branded as J. C. Penney but produced by numerous established firearms manufacturers.
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 remained branded as such because they were part of a group of stores that were divested because of trade competition issues raised during the merger.)In 1998, J. C.Penney launched its Internet store. In early 2001, J. C. Penney closed 44 under-performing stores. On April 14, 2002, J. C. Penney 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.
2000–2009: Continued growth and success
In 2001, J. C. Penney sold their direct-marketing insurance unit to Dutch insurer Aegon for $1.3 billion (equivalent to $1.8 billion in 2018) in cash. This was an attempt to allow the company to focus on the retail business.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, J. C. Penney's e-commerce storefront exceeded the one-billion dollar revenue mark for the first time.
In 2007, J. C. Penney launched the Ambrielle lingerie label, which became their largest private brand launched in the company's history. 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.
After J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney Catalog Centers inside the stores (which was a carryover from locations that were once Thrift Drug) and also continued to accept J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney 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. 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 J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney was a victim of the computer hacker, although J. C. Penney stated that no customers' credit card information had been stolen. In September 2010, J. C.Penney had joined Facebook to help promote their "Care, Share, Win" campaign. Since 1999, J. C. Penney has donated $100 million to after school care. Fans of J. C. Penney on Facebook can help decide which school will receive the next million dollars.
In 2009, J. C. Penney reached an agreement with Seattle's Best Coffee to feature full-service cafes within leased departments inside J. C. Penney stores across the country. Currently, Seattle's Best Coffee are still expanding cafe locations within J. C. Penney locations across the country.
2010–2013: Rebranding and decline
On January 24, 2011, J. C. Penney announced it would exit the catalog business and close all 19 of its catalog outlet stores. An additional seven stores, two call center facilities, and one customer decorating facility would also be closed. One of the J. C. Penney Outlet Stores that closed, at Franklin Mills Mall (now Philadelphia Mills Mall), in Philadelphia, PA, was replaced on March 2, 2012 by a regular J. C. Penney store. It was announced on March 17, 2017 that this store would be one of the 138 to close.
On February 12, 2011, The New York Times exposed the company's use of link schemes—"spamdexing"—to increase the J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney in searches. Although the retailer denied any involvement, it fired its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex.In June 2011, J. C. Penney announced that Ron Johnson, who had led Apple retail stores in a period of high growth, became the company's new CEO. In October 2011, J. C. Penney sold the 15 remaining catalog outlet stores to SB Capital Group. These stores will remain open then transition to JC's 5 Star Outlets. On December 7, 2011, J. C. Penney announced the acquisition of 16.6 percent of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia stock. J. C. Penney plans to put "mini-Martha Stewart shops" in many of its stores in 2013, as well as starting a website together.In January 2012, the company's chief operating officer at the time, Michael Kramer, revealed to The Wall Street Journal that more than 30 percent of the bandwidth of J. C. Penney's headquarters was used for the viewing of YouTube videos during that month alone. Kramer consequently laid off 1,600 employees to change the company's workplace culture.On February 1, 2012, J. C. Penney 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. Prices would also not end in 9 or 7, instead using whole figures when pricing items. 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. 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. In July 2012, the company announced that it was laying off 350 more workers at its headquarters.In August 2012, J. C. Penney 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. 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." J. C. Penney's stock rose 5.9% on Johnson's comments at the analyst meeting, the largest single-day stock increase since late January 2012.Fourth quarter sales for J. C. Penney, 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.It was announced in April 2012 that Nickelson Wooster would become the creative director for J. C. Penney menswear. Wooster stated in an interview with Esquire that his influence on the brand would begin with spring menswear available as of February 2013.On April 8, 2013, Johnson was fired from J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney faces and take steps to improve the company's performance."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. 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. In his statement, Ackman stated:
During my time on the J. C. Penney 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 J. C. Penney and all other parties involved.
On September 26, 2013, J. C. Penney, 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." 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". 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". Various analysts have mixed reviews of JCP's future.On December 1, 2013, J. C. Penney was replaced by Allegion in the S&P 500 Index. S&P cited J. C. Penney's 37% fall in market value to $2.7 billion (equivalent to $2.84 billion in 2018) was "more representative of the mid-cap market." J. C. Penney replaced Aéropostale from the S&P MidCap 400 Index.
In 2013, Soros Fund Management sold over 19 million JCP shares after only owning them for a few months.
On January 15, 2014, J. C. Penney announced it was closing 33 underperforming stores and laying off 2,000 employees. 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."J. C. Penney's stock 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.In January 2015, it was announced that J. C. Penney would close 39 underperforming stores nationwide and layoff 2,250 employees. 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. In February 2016, J. C. Penney launched its Support Center for U.S. - J. C. Penney Services India Private Limited in Bangalore, India.In February 2017, J .C. Penney announced that it would shutter two distribution centers and up to 140 underperforming stores as it wrestles with disappointing sales. The company also plans to offer buyouts for roughly 6,000 employees.
On March 17, 2017 J .C. Penney released a list of 138 locations that would close by the end of June 2017. By closing stores and distribution facilities, J. C. Penney will redirect resources to help expand its store-in-store Sephora boutiques, and add Nike and Adidas boutiques, similar to what Macy's has done with Finish Line, Lids and LensCrafters.At the close of 2017, J. C. Penney's Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating is 1.08 out of 5 stars based on 47 Customer Reviews and a BBB Rating of F. The company's ConsumerAffairs.com rating is 1 out of 5 stars based on 259 reviews submitted in the past year. Most of the low ratings are attributed to poor customer service.
In an effort to capitalize on self-deprecating humor and improve its reputation, J. C. Penney collaborated with Nicole Richie and other designers to open a "Jacques Penne" pop-up shop in Manhattan during the 2017 holiday season.In 2018, J. C. Penney closed permanently at Plaza Palma Real in Humacao, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria devastated the store in September 2017.
In May 2018, J. C. Penney reported an adjusted loss of $69 million in the first quarter, even worse than Wall Street was expecting, and lowered its projections for the year. Sales fell 4%, also missing estimates. Earlier in 2018, the company announced it would cut 360 jobs at its stores and corporate headquarters. The company lowered its earnings forecast for the year to 13 cents per share at best, and said it could lose as much as 7 cents. J. C. Penney finished the quarter with just $181 million in cash, down from $363 million a year ago. Much of the big decrease was because of a $190 billion debt replace.
On May 22, 2018, JCPenney announced the resignation of their CEO, Marvin Ellison.On October 2, 2018, JCPenney announced former Joann Stores CEO Jill Soltau as their CEO, effective October 15, 2018. With the announcement, JCPenney's shares rose 9%. The company ranked 235 on the Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by revenue.
In June 2008, an ad called "Speed Dressing" emerged ending with the J. C. Penney 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. J. C. Penney 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.
Marketing expert John Tantillo advised that the company distance itself from the commercial and also shed the publicity it engendered.
J. C. Penney private brands
J. C. Penney introduced its own private brands when some suppliers denied access to the expected inventories.
St. John's Bay, casual men's and women's clothing and shoes
The Original Arizona Jean Company, casual clothing and sandals for men, women, and children
Xersion, active and athletic clothing for men, women and children
Stafford, men's tailored clothing and shoes
J. Ferrar, (JF), men's full line of clothing
Worthington, women's formal and casual clothing and shoes
a.n.a, young women's urban clothing and shoes
Ambrielle, women's sleepwear, intimates, and swim
JCPenney Home, home goods
J. C. Penney-Chicago Store (Tucson, Arizona), listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)
J. C. Penney Company Building (Shoshone, Idaho), NRHP-listed
J. C. Penney Co. Warehouse Building (St. Louis, Missouri), NRHP-listed
J. C. Penney Building (Newberg, Oregon), NRHP-listed
J. C. Penney Historic District, Kemmerer, Wyoming, a National Historic Landmark District
J. C. Penney House, Kemmerer, Wyoming, NRHP-listed