J. C. Penney, Inc. announced plans to close 33 under-performing stores Wednesday. One of those locations announced was the Selma location, anchoring the Selma Mall on Highland Avenue. -- Josh Bergeron
J. C. Penney, Inc. announced plans to close 33 under-performing stores Wednesday. One of those locations announced was the Selma location, anchoring the Selma Mall on Highland Avenue. -- Josh Bergeron

J.C. Penney announces it will close Selma location

Published 4:17pm Wednesday, January 15, 2014

After 38 years, Selma will soon no longer be home to a J. C. Penney store.

J. C. Penney Company, Inc. announced Wednesday it was closing 33 under-performing stores across the country, including the company’s location in the Selma Mall. J. C. Penney first came to Selma in 1976.

In a release announcing the closures, the company said the remaining inventory in the affected stores will be sold over the next several months, with final closings expected to be complete by early May. The closure date for Selma’s location is expected to be on or before May 3.

The Selma Mall location was the only J. C. Penney location in Alabama among the list of 33 targeted stores.

“Wow, that’s a surprise. It’s like one of the two anchor stores for the mall and Belk is the other,” said Mary Johnson, who was shopping at J. C. Penney on Wednesday. “With one of the anchors gone, I don’t know how the mall can stay open.”

No one answered the phone at Selma Mall’s offices and representatives with Aronov Realty, the real estate management company over the mall, did not return messages left Wednesday afternoon.

J. C. Penney representatives said the Selma store employees “approximately 35.” Nationwide, 2,000 employees will be impacted.

“Eligible associates who do not remain with the company will receive separation benefits, and, if possible, we will assist associates in identifying other job opportunities at nearby J. C. Penney stores,” company spokesperson Sarah Holland said. “Additionally, we’re offering all associates a 2-day, on-site career training class. These classes will assist associates in writing resumes, filling out applications, answering interview questions and more.”

The loss of J. C. Penney is a significant loss in Selma’s national retail business base.

When the Selma location finally closes, the nearest J. C. Penney will be the Prattville store, located in the High Point Town Center, which is just less than 40 miles away from downtown Selma.

“I come here to shop all the time,” said Jennifer Hardy, who was shopping at J. C. Penney on Wednesday. “I don’t know what I would do if J.C. Penney closed in Selma. I guess I would have to drive to Prattville to shop.”

Wednesday’s announcement was part of the company’s efforts to strengthen its financial position after years of losses, J. C. Penney CEO Mike Ulman III said in a news release.

“As we continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth, it is necessary to reexamine the financial performance of our store portfolio and adjust our national footprint accordingly,” Ullman said in the company’s release. “While it’s always difficult to make a business decision that impacts our valued customers and associates, this important step addresses a strategic priority to improve the profitability of our stores and position J. C. Penney for future success.”

The company estimated the closures would save the company $65 million annually.

Local economic leaders were understanding of Wednesday’s news, and offered alternatives to the goods and services offered by J. C. Penney.

“I agree with chief executive, Mr. Ullman when he said it’s all about the numbers and them trying to make money,” Sheryl Smedley, director of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, said. “These business decisions are not based on our community but based on outlying communities. These goods and services J. C. Penney offers won’t be available to the local consumer, but we still have several good options with Belk, Catos, Goody’s and others where people can shop.”

 

— Times-Journal publisher Dennis Palmer and staff writer Josh Bergeron contributed to this report.

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