There was a time in the U.S. where big-name retailers like J.C. Penney enjoyed a comfortable spot atop chains of stores in all industries.
As a location that sold clothes, as well as other products like housewares, basic appliances, and even some electronics, they had a versatile setup that made them a convenient location for shoppers. They built a recognizable brand and became a trusted name among customers.
But all good things must come to an end, at least for many retailers in the modern age. That’s because the changing of the times has brought trouble and hardship for former corporate juggernauts. J.C. Penney is no exception, and it seems their recent managerial changes could be a sign that the struggling store is nearing its end.
Marvin Ellison, the company’s CEO, has announced his exit. There aren’t many managers who will back off a company they’ve been with for a while unless it’s in big trouble. Shareholders seem to also harbor this sentiment, as the company’s share prices plunged after it was announced Ellison was leaving J.C. Penney for Lowe’s.
They may be the most recent, but they’re certainly not the only retailer that’s struggled valiantly in a changing economy and rapidly modernized buying landscape. In an age of online stores, delivery services, and increasingly customer-centered solutions, retailers that once seemed convenient are now dated and sluggish. Even with their own online presence, it’s hard for a faltering brand to regain its footing in such a competitive retail atmosphere.
CNBC’s Jim Cramer spoke about the CEO’s departure, saying: “If there was any chance of a turnaround, I think you would stay. Because it would obviously be such a kick in the face of J.C. Penney to move over.” Cramer also noted that Ellison was a great acquisition for Lowe’s, and said he wasn’t to blame for the state of his former company.
In just a year, J.C. Penny shares have fallen by nearly half. In an age where other popular names that dominated the retail scene for generations are failing, this isn’t exactly uncommon. Toys R Us made headlines multiple times for store closures and bankruptcy protections before finally facing an imminent U.S. closure in early 2018.
While they may be a specialty store, other versatile retailers that were once in direct competition with J.C. Penney have also faced trouble. Sears is a good example – with sales down and store closures seeming to happen nearly every month, the company looks to be in an irreversible downward spiral. Sears Holdings’ other big-name store, K-Mart, has also faced hard times in recent years which led to more employee layoffs and store shutdowns.
The digital age has done a lot to change the way people shop, but it can’t be blamed entirely for the struggles of retailers. A failure to adopt a future-minded approach to business is one of the causes, as is a general failure to address problems early on. Should the chain close their doors forever, it would still be a big loss to the U.S. economy.