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J.C. Penney facts for kids

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J. C. Penney Company, Inc.
Traded as
  • S&P 600 component
Industry Retail
Founded April 14, 1902 (122 years ago) (1902-04-14)
Kemmerer, Wyoming, U.S.
Founders James Cash Penney, William Henry McManus
Headquarters 6501 Legacy Drive, ,
Number of locations
875 (Q3 2017)
Area served
Key people
Marvin Ellison
(Chairman and CEO)
  • Clothing
  • cosmetics
  • electronics
  • footwear
  • furniture
  • housewares
  • jewelry
  • appliances
Number of employees
106,000 (2017)

J. C. Penney (stylized as JCPenney) is an American department store chain with 1,095 locations in 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. In addition to selling conventional merchandise, JCPenney stores often house several leased departments such as Sephora, Seattle's Best Coffee, salons, optical centers, portrait studios, and jewelry repair.

Most JCPenney stores are located in suburban shopping malls. Before 1966, most of its stores were located in downtown areas. As shopping malls became more popular during the latter half of the 20th century, JCPenney followed the trend by relocating and developing stores to anchor the malls. In more recent years, the chain has continued to follow consumer traffic, echoing the retailing trend of opening some freestanding stores, including some next door to competitors. Certain stores are located in power centers. The company has been an Internet retailer since 1998. It has streamlined its catalog and distribution while undergoing renovation improvements at store level.


James Cash Penney was born in Hamilton, Missouri. In 1898, Penney went to work for Thomas Callahan and Guy Johnson, who owned dry goods stores called Golden Rule stores in Colorado and Wyoming. Callahan and Johnson asked Penney to join them in opening a new Golden Rule store. Using money from savings and a loan, Penney joined the partnership and moved Kemmerer, Wyoming, to start his own store.

Penney opened the store on April 14, 1902. He participated in the creation of two more stores, and purchased full interest in all three locations when Callahan and Johnson dissolved their partnership in 1907. In 1909, Penney moved his company headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah to be closer to banks and railroads. By 1912, Penney had 34 stores in the Rocky Mountain States. In 1913, all stores were consolidated under the J.C. Penney banner. The so-called "mother store", in Kemmerer, opened as the chain's second location in 1904. It still operates, as of 2011, albeit with shorter hours than many other locations.

In 1978, the J. C. Penney Historic District in Kemmerer, Wyoming, was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

J.C. Penney mother store in Kemmerer, Wyoming in September 2007

In 1913, the company was incorporated under the new name, J. C. Penney Company. In 1914, the headquarters was moved to New York City to simplify buying, financing, and transportation of goods. By 1917, the company operated 175 stores in 22 states in the United States. In 1922, the company's oldest active private brand, Big Mac work clothes, was launched. The company opened its 500th store in 1924 in Hamilton, Missouri, James Cash Penney's hometown. By the opening of the 1,000th store in 1928, gross business had reached $190,000,000 (equivalent to $3.24 billion in 2024).

JCPenney reached its peak number of stores in 1973, with 2,053 stores, 300 of which were full-line establishments.

In 1940, Sam Walton began working at a J. C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa. Walton later went on to found future retailer Walmart in 1962. By 1941, J.C. Penney operated 1,600 stores in all 48 states. In 1956, J. C. Penney started national advertising with a series of advertisements in Life magazine. J. C. Penney credit cards were first issued in 1959.

The company dedicated its first full-line, shopping center department store in 1961. This store was located at Black Horse Pike Center, in Audubon, New Jersey. The second full-line shopping center store was dedicated, at King of Prussia Plaza, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania in late 1962. Those stores expanded the lines of merchandise and services that an average J. C. Penney carried to include appliances, sporting goods, garden merchandise, restaurants, beauty salons, portrait studios, auto parts and auto centers.

Inside a JCPenney store, Springfield town center
Inside a JCPenney store, Springfield town center

On February 12, 1971, James Cash Penney died at the age of 95. Out of respect for his death, the company's stores were closed for the morning of February 16 during his funeral. That year, the company's revenues reached $5 billion (equivalent to $36.1 billion in 2024) for the first time and catalog business made a profit for the first time.

In 1983, JCPenney discontinued its appliance, hardware and auto center departments, and also sold its automotive centers to Firestone. Also in 1983, JCPenney began selling online through the Viewtron videotex service. In 1984, JCPenney acquired the First National Bank of Harrington, Delaware and renamed it JCPenney National Bank. With the bank the company became able to issue its own MasterCard and Visa cards. The company also began accepting American Express cards. In April 1987, the company announced that it was moving its headquarters to Dallas, Texas. After several years of development, the JCPenney Television Shopping Channel appeared on cable systems beginning in 1989.

By the mid-1980s, all JCPenney stores had discontinued sales of firearms. Before this point, JCPenney carried rifles and shotguns branded as JCPenney but produced by numerous established firearms manufacturers.

In 1998, JCPenney launched its Internet store. In early 2001, JCPenney closed 44 under-performing stores. On April 14, 2002, JCPenney celebrated 100 years as a retailer. In 2003, the company opened three off-the-mall stores in strip centers. These stores were located in Texas, Minnesota, and Indiana. The new one-level, 94,000 sq ft (8,700 m2) format stores focus on convenience with wider aisles and centralized checkouts.

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