J.C. Penney's new owners, Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management, announced last week that they have cut the corporate staff of more than 3,500 by about 100 people. In addition, field operation was cut by 550 people. When J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2020, there were about 84,000 associates employed y the company. 846 stores were then in operation. Since that time, 156 stores have been closed and an additional 18 are slated to close on May 16. Several distribution centers are also shuttered. About 34,000 associates have lost their job. The company today is leaner, and in theory structured to better meet strategic priorities, according to the new management.
Total Retail's Take: How J.C. Penney and other department stores like it, including Macy's and Kohl's, rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption it has caused their businesses will be interesting to track. Already challenged pre-pandemic by slowing foot traffic, more brands selling direct-to-consumer, and outsized physical footprints, among other issues, J.C. Penney and others like it are trying to best position their businesses to compete in retail's "new normal." For J.C. Penney, this has meant tightening its belt, including closing underperforming stores and reducing employee headcount. Will the iconic retailer continue with other needed changes, including strengthening its digital presence, outfitting its stores for increased BOPIS and curbside pickup demand, and providing an assortment of brands, both national and private label, that will draw consumers back into its stores? The answers to these questions figure to weigh heavily into J.C. Penney's future viability.