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J.C. Penney tumult drawing attention of Town Center

Executives with Charleston Town Center are closely following developments at troubled retail giant J.C. Penney.

Last week, the J.C. Penney board ousted chief executive officer Ron Johnson, who had been in the position only 17 months, after the department store chain posted its worst annual sales since 1987.

During his tenure, Johnson implemented a plan to revamp the chain by eliminating discounts in favor of everyday low prices, cutting employees and remodeling 700 of the company's 1,100 stores to feature boutique shopping brands, a move designed to attract younger, wealthier shoppers.

Shoppers did not take to the changes, and Penney's reported a sales drop of 25 percent last year.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported the company had hired Blackstone Group financial advisers to help the company raise more than $1 billion in cash. The Journal also reported the company was hoping to entice private-equity firms to invest in the company.

Other reports have speculated the company may sell off some of its locations and real estate to raise cash.

Meanwhile, the J.C. Penney board has re-hired former CEO Myron Ullman to find ways to cut costs and raise capital.

"Charleston Town Center is following with interest the corporate J.C. Penney reports in the news media," said Lisa McCracken, mall marketing director. 

J.C. Penney was one of the four anchor stores when the mall opened 30 years ago. The other three were Sears, Montgomery Ward and Kaufmann's.

Montgomery Ward was shuttered when that company fell into to bankruptcy in late 2000, and Kaufmann's gave way to Macy's. 

While Penney's position is precarious, it doesn't appear to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

The Wall Street Journal reported the company has access to a $1.85 billion line of credit that it has yet to draw on. The paper also said the company has no significant corporate debt payments due until 2015.

With Wall Street focused on the turnaround of the company overall, McCracken said the local store appears to be doing well.

"While we stay abreast of the situation, our recently remodeled J.C. Penney store is a proven department store and is experiencing new attention and popularity due to the retailer's new national marketing campaign and in-store additions of Sephora, Joe Fresh and other boutique retail lines," she said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.


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