Residents of Hardin County have begun to worry about the future of local fashion retailer, J.C. Penney, situated inside of Towne Mall at 1704 N Dixie Highway in Elizabethtown. The department store specializes in apparel, handbags, cosmetics, and fashion jewelry. The company's corporate office announced the closing of 33 outlets nationwide earlier last week. Job market forecasts suggest this move could slash up to 2,000 jobs across the country.
"[The store closings] address a strategic priority to improve the profitability of our stores." states J.C. Penney's Chief Executive Myron Ullman.
Many economists and consumers believe J.C. Penney's store closings are linked to the company's economic performance during the holiday season last fiscal quarter. The retail outlet faced fierce competition due to consumers flocking to other major retailers offering lower prices.
In response to the announcement regarding the store closures from J.C. Penney, local consumers have been pondering the possibility of the loss of the local Towne Mall shop. The Elizabethtown location lost a considerable amount of profit in 2012 after an employee set fire to the store's stockroom in an attempt to shoplift merchandise from her employer. An investigation led by the Elizabethtown Fire Department confirmed the arson and led to the arrest of the Big Clifty woman. The suspect, Janice Coolidge, admitted to several previous arson attempts. Coolidge was also charged with other crimes in relation to the arson.
"Alot of the merchandise that time was damaged by the smoke and had to be replaced. The store would have lost alot of money...because of those losses, there is a possibility we may lose our J.C. Penney in addition to the store closings," remembers Jeffrey Dowell Sr, a native of Hardin County.
Not only did the location lose unsold products during the fire, the Elizabethtown J.C. Penney was forced to close for the remainder of the business day following the arson incident, and remained closed for several weeks to make repairs to the building, stockroom, and store displays.
As of publication on January 20th, the Elizabethtown J.C. Penney isn't officially on the chopping block...for now. J.C. Penney released a list of the 33 store closings, but the list is comprised of only stores that are scheduled to close by May 2014. It is unclear at this time if the company will perform further audits to select additional locations for store closure. In fact, the company has added several new job postings within the last 24 hours to major career boards seeking to add new sales associates to the local J.C. Penney team. Hopefully, this is a positive indication for the future of the Towne Mall department store. Considering the downturn the company's stocks have taken since the announcement, no one can be certain.