Saturday, June 15, 2024 Jun 15, 2024
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J.C. Penney’s Troubles Started Long Before COVID-19

To understand what's happening today, let's revisit a story from 2013.

As the country slowly opens up for business, J.C. Penney is quickly shutting down. The 118-year-old retailer this week announced plans to close nearly one-third of its 846 stores. And at this moment, privateers from Amazon are reportedly climbing the ratlines at J.C. Penney’s Plano mothership, looking to plunder whatever booty the company has left.

The economic crisis created by COVID-19 is only partly to blame. The fault for J.C. Penney’s current troubles also lies in disastrous decisions made from 2011 to 2013 by the company’s board — a group that included some of biggest names in North Texas business as well as the biggest name in the history of hedge funds. That board put the chief of Apple’s stores, Ron Johnson, at the helm of J.C. Penney and failed to throw him overboard even as his radical remake was sinking the company.

Point is, J.C. Penney never fully recovered from Johnson’s tenure, and it may now be paying the ultimate price for mistakes made back then. In 2013, I recounted all of this in a D CEO story. For those who are interested in the company’s downfall, it seems a revisit is worth your time.