J.C. Penny Announces Major Layoffs

ByABC News
January 25, 2001, 9:49 PM

Jan. 25 -- J.C. Penney Co., once a favored destination for generations of middle-class shoppers, said today it will close 47 stores including four in Indiana and cut nearly 5,500 jobs in an effort to return to profitability.

The company will close 44 under-performing department stores and three catalog outlets, Penney said. Most will shut their doors by the end of June.

Four of the stories are in Indiana at Anderson, Bloomington and Martinsville and Indianapolis.

Plano-based Penney, which operates about 1,100 department stores, also said it would close most catalog desks in its Eckerd drugstores.

The moves will eliminate about 5,000 department-store jobs, 300 more at headquarters and regional offices and 265 Eckerd positions all told, less than 2 percent of the company's work force of 290,000.

Small Town Closings

Penney said it would offer jobs to some of the affected workers.

Some of the targeted stores are in suburban malls in places like Dallas, Houston and White Plains, N.Y. But many are in smaller towns where there is a scarcity of other nationally knownretailers.

Joleen Anderson gathered most of the 25 employees at the Penney store in Susanville, Calif., last week to tell them the bad news.

"It's a business decision, which I fully understand, but it hurts," Anderson said today. "In a small store like this, you're like family."

The only other big retailer in the mountain town of 17,000 is Wal-Mart, and the nearest Penney is about 100 miles away. Anderson, whose husband works at one of two nearby prisons the biggest local employers was unsure whether she or any of her employees would relocate to stay with the company.

Thursday's announcement marked the second recent round of Penney store closings. Last year, the company announced it would close 45 department stores and 279 Eckerds.

A longtime landmark on the American shopping scene, Penney has been in a years-long slide amid tough competition from discounters and trendier retailers. Analysts said the company's priormanagement let the stores spiral into depressing, cluttered places that offered stale fashions.