Marshall to lose J.C. Penney store

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Marshall will lose a longtime retailer in January 2004 when the J.C. Penney store at the Marshall Plaza shopping center closes its doors for good.

The J.C. Penney store at the Marshall Plaza will be closing its doors permanently Jan. 17, 2004, a company spokesman said this week. Eighteen employees of the local store were told Friday, Oct. 3, they would lose their jobs.

A fixture among local shoppers for decades, the store opened at the Marshall Plaza in April 1979, having moved from is location on the Marshall square.

"It's a routine closing," said Quinton Crenshaw, spokesman for J.C. Penney Co. "The closing is really reflecting the store's performance."

He said J.C. Penney Co. analyzes its stores from year to year on factors including sales performance, market and customers. Crenshaw said he didn't know the particular reason for the Marshall store's closing. "Maybe customers are traveling to other stores more or that type of thing," he said.

Phil Smith, manager for the Marshall J.C. Penney store, and store associates refused to comment to the Democrat-News because they said it would violate company policy.

Jerry Hedrick, owner of Jerry's Mens Wear on the Marshall square, said he was disappointed when he heard rumors of J.C. Penney's closing.

"It's a bad situation for the whole town, myself included," he said. "It's not a good deal when any store of any kind closes. We don't have anything now and it's getting worse."

Hedrick said he has worked closely with the other clothing store, sending customers there if his store is out of stock and also receiving customer referrals from J.C. Penney. Hedrick said there's been a J.C. Penney store in Marshall for as long as he can remember, and he hopes the employees who lost their jobs can find work locally.

The store closing will ultimately direct more tax dollars out of Saline County, Hedrick said. He said when people leave town to buy women's clothing -- a feature of the local J.C. Penney outlet which served a need not addressed by the majority of local merchants -- they will likely shop for other products as well.

Marshall Mayor Connie Latimer was disheartened about the store's closing.

"J.C. Penney has been a fixture here forever," she said. "I hate to see it close."

In May, Latimer asked the Marshall-Saline Development Corporation (MSDC) to actively recruit more retail stores and said the closing "certainly doesn't help" recruitment efforts. "We're going to have to step up a little bit," she said. "We can't have everybody jumping ship and nobody replacing them."

Roy Hunter, executive director for MSDC, said he has expected the Marshall J.C. Penney to close for some time.

"We've known probably for about a year because of closures in other cities our size that it would go, it was just a matter of time," he said. MSDC will address the issue at its next board meeting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the MSDC offices at the corner of U.S. Highway 65 and Arrow Street, Hunter said.

MSDC has yet to study which retailers might replace J.C. Penney in Marshall, Hunter said. "We've got to convince people in Marshall to shop there if we get (a clothing retailer) back," he said.

Joyce Williams, executive director of the Marshall Chamber of Commerce, said she has been working with MSDC to attract more retail stores, particularly clothing stores, to little avail so far.

"Most of the companies are not looking to put a corporate store here," she said. "They are looking at local investors."

Crenshaw said about 10 J.C. Penney stores close each year and a restructuring in 2001 closed over 40 stores nationwide. He said July 26 data shows J.C. Penney Co. has 1,040 department stores. The next quarterly earnings, which will include the number of stores, is due Nov. 11.

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