JCPenney will close three of its Arizona stores. (Photo: Twitter)

JCPenney will close three of its Arizona stores. (Photo: Twitter)

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- JCPenney has announced that it will be closing 154 of its locations, including three stores here in Arizona.

JCPenney filed for bankruptcy last month. The COVID-19 pandemic was the final blow to a 118-year-old company that had been struggling for years. "Until this pandemic struck, we had made significant progress rebuilding our company under our Plan for Renewal strategy -- and our efforts had already begun to pay off," said CEO Jill Soltau. "Implementing this financial restructuring plan through a court-supervised process is the best path to ensure that JCPenney will build on its over 100-year history to serve our customers for decades to come."

The three affected Arizona stores are:

Christown Spectrum
1727 W Bethany Home Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85015

Little Creek Center
1100-B Hwy 260
Cottonwood, AZ 86326

El Con Shopping Center
3501 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85716

Click here for the complete list of nationwide closures

This is just the first wave of store closures; more stores could shut down at a later date. Company officials say JCPenney intends to reduce its store footprint and focus resources on its strongest stores and powerful eCommerce flagship store, Store closing sales for the first round of store closures are expected to take 10-16 weeks to complete.

“While closing stores is always an extremely difficult decision, our store optimization strategy is vital to ensuring we emerge from both Chapter 11 and the COVID-19 pandemic as a stronger retailer with greater financial flexibility," said Soltau. “I am incredibly grateful to our talented associates for their ongoing dedication and their passion for meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations during this difficult and uncertain time. All impacted associates will be treated with the utmost consideration and respect.”

JCPenney opened in 1902 with its first store in Kemmerer, Wyoming. It grew to become one of the major national retailers, an anchor of many suburban shopping malls. JCPenney reached its peak number of stores in 1973, when it operated just over 2,000 locations nationwide. Today, the company has 85,000 employees, making it among the largest U.S. retailers to file for bankruptcy in recent years.

Many experts are pessimistic about JCPenney’s survival, even as it sheds its debt and shrinks the number of its stores. Its fashion and home offerings haven’t stood out for years. And its middle-to-low income customers have been the hardest hit by massive layoffs during the pandemic. Many of them will likely shop more at discounters — if they shop at all, analysts say.

“This is a long, sad story,” said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, a retail research firm. “Penney offers no reason to shop there compared to its competitors, whether it’s Macy’s or T.J. Maxx or Walmart. How are they going to survive?”

Like many department stores, Penney is struggling to remain relevant in an era when Americans are buying more online or from discounters. Sears has now been reduced to a couple of hundred stores after being bought by hedge fund billionaire and its former chairman Eddie Lampert in bankruptcy in early 2019. Barneys New York closed its doors earlier this year and Bon-Ton Stores went out of business in 2018.


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