J. C. Penney Company History Timeline

(10,702 Jobs)
1902

April 14, 1902: James Cash Penney, along with two partners, opens the 25-foot by 40-foot “Golden Rule Store” in the mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming.

On April 14, 1902, founder Penney and two partners opened the Golden Rule dry-goods store in the small town of Kemmerer, Wyoming.

James Cash Penney started his first retail store in 1902 in Kemmerer, Wyoming, a small mining town.

Penney founded the Company in 1902: it was, and is, to sell merchandise and services to consumers at a profit, primarily but not exclusively in the United States, in a manner that is consistent with our Company ethics and responsibilities.

1902: James Cash Penney opens his first retail store, called the Golden Rule, in Kemmerer, Wyoming.

1907

In 1907 Callahan and Johnson dissolved their partnership and Penney bought them out, taking over three stores.

1907: James Cash Penney buys out his original partners and assumes sole control of the business.

1912

1912: With 34 stores, Penney annual sales reach $2 million.

1913

In 1913, Penney incorporated the company as J.C. Penney Company, Inc. and moved the corporate headquarters to New York City to be closer to manufacturers and suppliers.

1913: Penney incorporates his company, consisting of more than 34 stores, as J.C. Penney Company, Inc. and moves the headquarters to New York City.

1915

By 1915 the company had 83 stores and the next year ventured east of the Mississippi River for the first time with stores in Wausau and Watertown, Wisconsin.

By 1915 the company had 83 stores, and the next year ventured east of the Mississippi River for the first time with stores in Wausau and Watertown, Wisconsin.

1917

Penney became chairman of the board in 1917, when the company had 175 stores, and Earl Sams became president.

1922

The company's first of many private brands, Big Mac, hit the shelves in 1922 (by which time the name Golden Rule had been replaced with "J.C. Penney Company"). Private brands became a mainstay of Penney's merchandise success.

1922: Penney operates 371 stores with annual sales of $49 million.

1923

Though he had quietly been giving thousands of dollars to local churches and organizations, in 1923 he founded Penney Farms, a 120,000-acre experimental farming area in northern Florida for down-on-their-luck farmers.

1925

In 1925 when the company’s 674 stores Generaled sales of $91 million, Penney was again giving some of his good fortune back, this time by establishing the J.C. Penney Foundation to fund a myriad of family-related agencies.

In 1925 when the company’s 674 stores generated sales of $91 million, Penney was again giving some of his good fortune back, this time in establishing the J.C. Penney Foundation to fund a myriad of family-related agencies.

1926

In 1926 the company opened an 18-story office and warehouse building in New York.

1927

1927: Penney’s celebrates its 25th anniversary.

1929

In 1929 the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

1929: Company goes public with listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

1936

The company’s profits even increased during the Depression; by 1936 sales rose to $250 million, and the number of stores grew to 1,496.

The company’s profits even increased during the Depression, and by 1936 sales rose to $250 million, and the number of stores grew to 1,496.

The company's profits even increased during the Depression; by 1936 sales rose to $250 million, and the number of stores grew to 1,496.

1940

That company's founder, Sam Walton, had been a Penney's employee in 1940 and had used many of the J.C. Penney principles in the founding of his own business.

1942

1942: James Cash Penney gives a keynote address at the company’s 40th anniversary celebration in Montana.

1945

Materials and merchandise were scarce, yet the company increased its sales to $500 million in 1945.

1946

In 1946 Earl Sams was promoted to chairman, with Penney as honorary chairman, and Albert Hughes, a former Utah store manager, was elevated to the presidency.

1948

In 1948 the company made its first foray into movie tie-in promotion when stores gave away patterns based on the popular Oscar-winning song "Buttons and Bows" from the Bob Hope film The Paleface.

1949

The company—now with 1,602 stores—opened a store in Hampton Village, Missouri, in 1949 in a “drive-in shopping district,” a precursor to suburban malls.

1950

After only four years as chairman, Earl Sams died in 1950.

1952

1952: Penney’s passes the $1 billion mark in annual sales.

1957

At the same time, William Batten, a vice-president, conducted an internal study in 1957; the results indicated the company should adapt to changing consumer spending habits, especially by beginning to sell on credit instead of for cash only.

At the same time, William Batten, a vice-president, conducted a study in 1957; the results indicated the company should adapt to changing consumer spending habits, especially by beginning to sell on credit instead of for cash only.

1962

In 1962 JCPenney got into the mail-order business for the first time by buying General Merchandise Company, a Wisconsin firm with a discount store operation as well.

In 1962 J.C. Penney, Inc. got into the mail-order business for the first time by buying General Merchandise Company, a Wisconsin firm with a discount store operation as well.

1962: Company enters the mail-order business through the purchase of General Merchandise Company.

As well, those companies’ success with mail-order sales encouraged J.C. Penney to enter the catalog field by acquiring the General Merchandise Co. in 1962.

1963

1963: On August 15, Penney’s opens its first full-line department store, located at the King of Prussia Plaza in suburban Philadelphia.

The company’s first full-line stores, with all the new merchandise lines instituted by President Batten, opened in 1963 in Audubon, New Jersey, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

The J.C. Penney catalog debuted in 1963, and the company continued to grow.

The company's first full-line stores, with all the new merchandise lines instituted by President Batten, opened in 1963 in Audubon, New Jersey, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

1964

The company needed bigger headquarters because it had grown significantly in 38 years; it built a 45-story office in New York in 1964, where the company stayed until its later move to Dallas.

1968

Sales topped $3 billion in 1968, and Cecil Wright became president.

1969

In 1969 it hired its first advertising agency, LaRoche, McCaffrey, and McCall.

1969: Company enters drugstore sector with the purchase of Thrift Drug Company.

1971

James Cash Penney died in 1971 at age 95.

1971: Founder James Cash Penney passes away at age 95.

1973

Able to take advantage of the fact that disposable income in the United States was rising faster than inflation, JCPenney reached its highest number of stores in 1973, with 2,053 stores, 300 of which were full-line establishments.

1974

Donald Seibert was elected fifth chairman of the board and CEO in 1974, the same year a third catalog distribution center was opened in Columbus, Ohio.

While the company was riding high on these achievements, the recession that began in 1974 took its toll.

While the company was riding high on these achievements, the recession of 1974 took its toll.

Donald Seibert was elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1974, and Jackson continued as president.

1975

The company offered, and sold, three million shares of common stock in 1975, and Sesame Street joined JCPenney’s fold by signing an exclusive licensing agreement for children’s wear.

Like other businesses, JCPenney rebounded and had good growth in 1975, but its executives began to suspect the company needed to be restructured.

Like other businesses, Penney rebounded and had good growth in 1975, but its executives began to suspect the company needed to be restructured.

The company offered, and sold, three million shares of common stock in 1975, and Sesame Street joined the Penney’s fold by signing an exclusive licensing agreement for children’s wear.

The company offered, and sold, three million shares of common stock in 1975, and Sesame Street joined JCPenney's fold by signing an exclusive licensing agreement for children's wear.

1976

Walter Neppl became president in 1976 (Seibert was still chairman), and the company launched its women’s fashion program in five markets, designed to help the company compete against specialty stores cropping up in malls.

Walter Neppl became president in 1976, and the company launched its women’s fashion program in five markets, designed to help the company compete against the specialty stores cropping up in all the malls.

Walter Neppl became president in 1976 (Siebert was still chairman), and the company launched its women’s fashion program in five markets, designed to help the company compete against specialty stores cropping up in malls.

Walter Neppl became president in 1976 (Seibert was still chairman), and the company launched its women's fashion program in five markets, designed to help the company compete against specialty stores cropping up in malls.

1978

A fourth catalog distribution center, in Lenexa, Kansas, was added in 1978.

1979

As a fifth distribution center was added in 1979, in Reno, Nevada, the catalog service went nationwide.

To continue expanding the credit policies of the company, JCPenney began accepting Visa in 1979; MasterCard was accepted the next year.

To continue expanding the credit policies of the company, J.C. Penney began accepting Visa in stores in 1979.

1980

The company closed the Treasury discount stores in 1980 because they were unprofitable and decided to focus resources on its JCPenney stores.

The company closed the Treasury discount stores in 1980 because they were unprofitable and because the company wanted to focus resources on its Penney stores.

1981

In 1981, when the company’s sales totaled $11.9 billion, JCPenney was the first to sell zero-coupon bonds in domestic public markets.

In 1981 when the company’s sales totaled $11.9 billion, Penney was the first to sell zero-coupon bonds in domestic public markets.

In 1981 when the company’s sales totaled $11.9 billion, JCPenney was the first to sell zero-coupon bonds in domestic public markets.

In 1981, when the company's sales totaled $11.9 billion, JCPenney was the first to sell zero-coupon bonds in domestic public markets.

1982

A sixth catalog distribution center was also opened in 1982, in Manchester, Connecticut.

1982: Massive reorganization is launched to transform the company from a mass merchant into a national department store.

To continue expanding the credit policies of the company, JCPenney began accepting Visa in 1979; MasterCard was accepted the next year. It would take almost a decade to achieve the goals outlined in the JCPenney stores positioning statement, issued in 1982.

Seibert, the chairman, continued to oversee the beginning of the process, and Robert Gill and Howell were made vice chairmen. It would take almost a decade to achieve the goals outlined in the J.C. Penney stores positioning statement, issued in 1982.

In 1981 when the company’s sales totaled $11.9 billion, JCPenney was the first to sell zero-coupon bonds in domestic public markets. It would take almost a decade to achieve the goals outlined in the JCPenney stores positioning statement, issued in 1982.

In 1981, when the company's sales totaled $11.9 billion, JCPenney was the first to sell zero-coupon bonds in domestic public markets. It would take almost a decade to achieve the goals outlined in the JCPenney stores positioning statement, issued in 1982.

1983

In 1983 JCPenney announced a $1 billion program to give its stores facelifts and rearrange merchandise.

In 1983 Penney announced a $1 billion program for giving its stores facelifts and for rearranging merchandise.

1984

Thrift Drug, long dormant since JCPenney purchased it, scored some big points in 1984, when several major industrial companies became mail-order pharmacy customers.

Also in 1984, JCPenney purchased the First National Bank of Harrington, Delaware, and renamed it J.C. Penney National Bank, to assist in credit and financial services.

Thrift Drug, long dormant since Penney purchased it, scored some big points in 1984, when several major industrial companies became mail-order pharmacy customers.

Also in 1984, Penney purchased the First National Bank of Harrington, Delaware and renamed it J. C Penney National Bank, to assist in credit and financial services.

1985

Thrift Drug celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1985; JCPenney’s total year-end sales hit $13.6 billion.

Thrift Drug celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1985; JCPenney's total year-end sales hit $13.6 billion.

1986

In 1986, Penney acquired Units, a chain of stores selling contemporary knitwear.

1987

In 1987 the company discontinued sales of home electronics, hard sporting goods, and photo equipment in its stores.

The company made itself leaner by discontinuing sales of home electronics, hard sporting goods, and photo equipment in 1987.

Penney’s enters the Belgium market and purchases a sizable interest in the retailer, Sarma, S.A. The company sells the Sarma-Penney firm in 1987.

1988

The company also launched a massive leveraged employee stock ownership plan (LESOP) in 1988.

The company also launched a leveraged employee stock ownership plan in 1988.

1989

In 1989 JCPenney was named the exclusive United States distributor for Olympic apparel, sold its JCPenney Casualty Insurance Company, and debuted the JCPenney Television Shopping Channel.

In 1989 JCPenney was named the United States’s exclusive distributor for Olympic apparel, sold its JCPenney Casualty Insurance Company, and debuted the JCPenney Television Shopping Channel.

1990

Helliker, Kevin, “Penney’s Catalog Division, Long a Star, Risks Losing Its Luster As Sales Slacken,” Wall Street Journal, December 24, 1990.

Earnings for 1990 fell to $4.33 per share from overall revenue of nearly $17.4 billion, slowed by the uncertainty over the Persian Gulf and the coming recession.

In 1990 Miller retired and Vice-Chairman Gill took on the former’s responsibilities as COO of JCPenney stores and catalog service.

Another proprietary brand, the Original Arizona Jean Company (begun in 1990), soared in earnings to $400 million from the previous year’s $90 million.

In 1990 Miller retired and vice chairman Gill took on the former’s responsibilities as COO of JCPenney stores and catalog service.

In 1990 Miller retired and Vice-Chairman Gill took on the former's responsibilities as COO of JCPenney stores and catalog service.

Another proprietary brand, the Original Arizona Jean Company (begun in 1990), soared in earnings to $400 million from the previous year's $90 million.

1990: The Original Arizona Jean Company private brand of clothing is launched.

1991

After relocating to its new headquarters in Plano, the company was rewarded with replenished catalog sales; record performances from JCPenney Insurance and JCPenney National Bank; retail sales of $18 billion; and a net income hike of $777 million with an ROE leap of 18.6 percent over 1991.

After relocating to its new headquarters in Piano, the company was rewarded with replenished catalog sales; record performances from JCPenney Insurance and JCPenney National Bank; retail sales of $18 billion, and a net income hike of $777 million with an ROE leap of 18.6 percent over 1991.

By 1991 sales of $16.2 billion reflected a drop in revenue for the company.

1992

To the relief of shareholders and management alike, JCPenney rebounded in 1992 while celebrating its 90th anniversary.

1994

The next year, 1994, JCPenney was still riding the crest of its Arizona wave and introduced Little Arizona denimwear for toddlers.

Figures for 1994 further demonstrated the company’s achievement, with $20.4 billion in retail sales ($800 million from Arizona brandwear), a 6.8 percent comparative store sales increase, and net income topping $1 billion.

Retail sales increased only 0.9 percent for the year ($20.6 billion vs. $20.4 billion), income fell from 1994’s outstanding $1 billion to $838 million, and comparative store sales experienced a 1.4 percent drop.

Figures for 1994 further demonstrated the company’s achievement, with $20.4 billion in retail sales ($800 million from Arizona brandwear), a 6.8 percent comparative stpre sales increase, and net income topping $1 billion.

Figures for 1994 further demonstrated the company's achievement, with $20.4 billion in retail sales ($800 million from Arizona brandwear), a 6.8 percent comparative store sales increase, and net income topping $1 billion.

Retail sales increased only 0.9 percent for the year ($20.6 billion vs. $20.4 billion), income fell from 1994's outstanding $1 billion to $838 million, and comparative store sales experienced a 1.4 percent drop.

1995

Thrift Drug, the tenth largest drugstore chain in the nation with 645 stores in 12 states, had sales of nearly $1.9 billion in 1995 (a 20.2 percent increase) and plans for new outlets in North Carolina and New Jersey.

J.C. Penney opened stores in Mexico and Chile in 1995.

1996

1996: Penney acquires the Eckerd Drug Corporation.

1997

In February 1997 JCPenney acquired Eckerd Corporation and its 1,750 drugstores for $3.3 billion and began rebranding all of its drugstores under the Eckerd name.

Other initiatives in 1997 included the sale of the assets of JCPenney National Bank and the reorganization of the company into four operating units: Department Stores and Catalog, Drugstores, Insurance, and International.

1997: Company acquires Eckerd Corporation and its 1,750 drugstores for $3.3 billion.

1998

For the fiscal year ending in January 1998, drugstore revenues totaled $9.66 billion, nearly one-third of overall company revenues.

Oesterreicher launched a series of cost-cutting initiatives, including the closure of 75 underperforming stores and the elimination of about 4,900 jobs in 1998.

After experimenting with Internet sales as a logical extension of the company’s catalog operations, jcpenney.com was transformed into a full-scale sales channel in 1998.

After experimenting with Internet sales as a logical extension of the company's catalog operations, jcpenney.com was transformed into a full-scale sales channel in 1998.

1998: Full-scale launch of jcpenney.com is undertaken.

1999

Plans to issue a tracking stock for Eckerd were first announced in May 1999, but the partial IPO was subsequently canceled three separate times.

The new leader would be working closely with Vanessa Castagna, who had been hired away from Wal-Mart in 1999 to become chief operating officer of the department store and catalog unit.

By 1999 Kohl's had recorded its fourth consecutive year of growth exceeding 30 percent, while J.C. Penney struggled to stay afloat.

1999: Penney’s performs below expectations at its department store and catalog businesses.

1999: Credit card operations are sold to GE Capital for $4 billion.

2000

Online sales totaled only $15 million that first year but jumped to $102 million for the fiscal year ending in January 2000.

Retail-turnaround expert Allen Questrom, credited with the recent rebound of Federated Department Stores, Inc., came on board as chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney in September 2000.

Wells, Devona. "Former J.C. Penney CEO to Speak at Bakersfield, Calif., Business Conference." Bakersfield Californian, October 13, 2000.

DDB had launched the "It's All Inside" campaign by the fall of 2000, setting the stage to rebrand the company inside and out.

In early 2000 J.C. Penney severed ties with Temerlin McClain in favor of a more cohesive marketing program from global mega-agency DDB of Chicago.

Target's slick marketing and appealing, trendy merchandise out-hipped everyone in the field, and by year 2000 the company had 1,300 stores in 47 states and was doing billions of dollars in business.

2001

By January 2001, the company had closed 48 underperforming department stores as well as nearly 300 Eckerd outlets.

In February 2001 the company’s department stores were converted to centralized merchandising, a move aimed at enabling the company to introduce new fashions faster, present a uniform chainwide image, and cut costs.

In February 2001 the company's department stores were converted to centralized merchandising, a move aimed at enabling the company to introduce new fashions faster, present a uniform chainwide image, and cut costs.

In June 2001, in another debt-reduction initiative, JCPenney sold its direct marketing services unit, which included the company's insurance operations, to AEGON, N.V. for $1.3 billion.

In early 2001 Questrom announced that an additional 44 department stores and three catalog outlet centers would be closed and about 5,500 jobs would be cut.

2002

In the June 2002 issue of Retail Merchandiser Questrom reaffirmed this description of the company's core market as "mainstream American families," a group earning somewhere between $30,000 and $80,000 a year and seeking value.

In June 2001, in another debt-reduction initiative, JCPenney sold its direct marketing services unit, which included the company’s insurance operations, to AEGON, N.V. for $1.3 billion. Thus, as it neared its 100th anniversary in 2002, JCPenney was going through one of the most important periods in its history.

By its 100-year anniversary in 2002 J.C. Penney's recovery was underway, thanks to the combination of advertising and product overhaul that typified the "It's All Inside" campaign.

2002: Penney celebrates its 100th year.

In early 2001 Questrom announced that an additional 44 department stores and three catalog outlet centers would be closed and about 5,500 jobs would be cut. Thus, as it neared its 100th anniversary in 2002, JCPenney was going through one of the most important periods in its history.

2004

In 2004 J.C. Penney turned a significant portion of its marketing attention to a new and growing segment of the population: Hispanics.

By 2004 the company's daunting debt was cut in half, and the first quarter was a strong start, promising to keep J.C. Penney growing steadily into the fifth year of its comeback plan.

2005

JCPenney sells Renner in 2005.

2006

2006: JCPenney develops a partnership with Sephora to open full cosmetic boutiques within its larger department stores.

In 2006 the company announced a partnership with Sephora, a cosmetics chain, to open Sephora outlets inside select J.C. Penney stores.

2010

For the past decade, JCPenney has been struggling under a mountain of debt and red ink. Its most recent profitable year was 2010, and its net losses have totaled $4.5 billion since then.

2011

CEO Ron Johnson, who began his tenure in November 2011, tries to develop “America’s favorite store by creating a specialty department store experience.” The executive leadership understands the risks but goes forward with the plan.

Despite acquiring brands like Liz Claiborne back in 2011, JCPenney no longer had a cohesive vision and identity around its product selection, critics said.

2012

Two years later it launched the American Living brand (discontinued 2012), a line of clothing, accessories, and home decor developed by the American fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

2017

2017: In order to pay off part of its debt load, JCPenney sells its Plano, Texas headquarters campus for $353 million.

2018

"JCPenney hasn't created an experience that solidifies a place in consumers' shopping habits," Kathy Gersch, executive vice president of the consultancy firm Kotter, told Business Insider's Mary Hanbury in May 2018.

"JCPenney is nowhere," Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School, told CNN Business in the summer of 2018. "A retailer who's nowhere is dead because the business is always hyper-competitive and typically a zero-sum game."

2020

May 15, 2020: JCPenney files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Amid continued poor sales—which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic—J.C. Penney’s holding company filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2020.

JCPenney is one of the largest department stores in the country, with more than 800 brick-and-mortar locations.After nearly 120 years in business, JCPenney filed for bankruptcy on May 15, 2020.

After nearly 120 years in business, JCPenney filed for bankruptcy on May 15, 2020.

JCPenney has shuttered dozens of stores in recent years, including six stores and a Kansas customer service center that closed at the beginning of 2020.

2021

"J.C. Penney Company, Inc. ." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved April 16, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/jc-penney-company-inc-1

"J.C. Penney Company, Inc. ." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 16, 2021). https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/jc-penney-company-inc

"J.C. Penney Company, Inc. ." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved April 16, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/jc-penney-company-inc

"J.C. Penney Company, Inc. ." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 16, 2021). https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/jc-penney-company-inc-0

"J.C. Penney Company, Inc. ." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved April 16, 2021 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/jc-penney-company-inc-0

Founded
1902
Company Founded
Headquarters
Plano, TX
Company Headquarter
Founders
James Penney,William McManus
Company Founders

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