Feb. 24--Retailer JCPenney, announcing Friday that it plans to close as many as 140 stores and two distribution centers, for the moment did not say which locations it is targeting with its budget ax.
Thus, the longtime anchor store at Peachtree Mall in Columbus, may or may not be on the closure list. The Plano, Texas-based company said it won't be letting the public know until the middle of March, after it has notified employees.
(Sephora's Friday grand opening is final piece of JCPenney makeover)
Either way, it's possible that the JCPenney in Columbus could be a little lighter in its employee ranks and experience with the retailer also saying it will be offering as many as 6,000 workers "voluntary early retirement." It said the retirements -- which must be accepted by March 17 -- will "far exceed" the number of full-time staffers impacted by the store closings. The voluntary early retirement program is open to those earning a paycheck in stores, the firm's headquarters and in its supply chain.
"We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," Marvin R. Ellison, JCPenney's chairman and chief executive officer, said Friday in a statement.
But the CEO did not discount the need for brick-and-mortar stores that complement the retailer's own online shopping presence. He said those locations that "fully execute" the company's strategy of offering beauty items, home goods and special sizes in a "vibrant" shopping environment are showing higher sales and still are vital.
That should bode well for the Columbus JCPenney, which has undergone major remodels in recent years, while also adding the popular Sephora beauty line within its separate store-like location just steps inside the store's entrance to Peachtree Mall. Another anchor at the 3131 Manchester Expressway mall, department store Macy's, also survived a recent round of store closings by its parent company.
Kevin Berry, senior vice president of investor and public relations at Chicago-based General Growth Properties, the mall's owner, essentially said no comment Friday when asked about the performance and fate of the local JCPenney, its major tenant.
(Sears and Kmart stores in Columbus are closing)
JCPenney and its local workforce are accustomed to rolling with the changes, having relocated to Peachtree Mall from Columbus Square Mall on Macon Road in 1994. Before that, it was in downtown Columbus. The retailer also has watched other major tenants depart Peachtree Mall, including Montgomery Ward (where Macy's now operates) and Parisian (where At Home recently set up a superstore).
The mall on Manchester Expressway opened in 1975 and has been expanded or renovated three times, the last coming in 1994 with the addition of a new wing anchored by JCPenney. The shopping center has about 100 stores with roughly 820,000 square feet of leasable space and 4,000 parking spaces.
On Friday, JCPenney said those employees impacted company-wide by the store and distribution center closures will receive separation benefits that include help with writing a resume and preparing for interviews, along with assistance in "identifying other employment opportunities."
Most of the stores being closed will do so within the second quarter, the company said, which is between April and June. The company currently operates more than 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
"I have a deep appreciation and respect for our associates who are on the front lines working tirelessly to serve our customers every day," Ellison said in his statement. "Closing a store is never an easy decision, especially given the local impact on valued employees and our most loyal shoppers. While any actions that reduce or exclude our presence in communities across the country is always difficult, it is essential that JCPenney continues to evolve in order to achieve long-term growth and profitability and deliver on shareholder value."
The move by JCPenney, which dates to 1902, comes with another iconic retailer, Sears, now holding a liquidation sale on Whittlesey Boulevard in Columbus as it prepares to shutter that department store's doors. Sears Holdings also is closing Kmart discount stores on Macon Road in Columbus and U.S. Highway 280 in Phenix City.
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