From its start as a small dry-goods store in Wyoming to its national presence today, this retailer has maintained its commitment to serving its customers well.
James Cash Penney originally called his stores the Golden Rule because it was his personal and business philosophy to treat others the way he would want to be treated. It’s a philosophy that has carried through as the company expanded from a small dry-goods store in Kemmerer, Wyo. to a national $17.6 billion retailer with more than 1,100 department stores throughout the US and Puerto Rico. In 1913, Penney’s growing chain of stores expanded into Utah and became JCPenny Company, Inc. Its headquarters was moved from Salt Lake City to New York City in 1914 to be closer to its major sources of merchandise. But since 1992, the company has been headquartered in Plano, Texas.
One of the company’s earlier logos proclaimed it to be a “nationwide institution,” which described its evolution well. At one point, more than 2,000 of its stores were found on America’s main streets and in major shopping centers across the nation. After World War II, JCPenney expanded along with its customers into suburban areas and later into regional malls. The company’s catalogue was created in 1963, and, in 1994, JCPenney’s first website began selling merchandise via the web.
Throughout the years, JCPenney’s founding Golden Rule mentality has stuck, and the company has maintained its commitment to the surrounding communities and ethical work practices. In 2007, JCPenney published its first corporate social responsibility report, emphasizing its commitment to good corporate citizenship through the support of environmental, social, and ethical initiatives.
This year, the company raised $6.7 million for its Afterschool Round-Up campaign. Shoppers were encouraged to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to the company’s afterschool program. The program benefits more than 1,100 communities where a JCPenney store is located and is aimed at providing students with life-enriching activities when the bell lets out for the day.
“Due to its popularity, JCPenney expanded the Round-Up program last year, and customers responded with their generosity and commitment to our nation’s youth by increasing donations 40% over 2009,” said Mike Theilmann, group executive vice president for JCPenney and chairman of the JCPenney Afterschool Fund. “This overwhelming support shows that when we all come together and donate a small amount in change, it can add up to make a big difference for local communities.”
The company recognized that its long-term success is thanks in part to its ability to leverage the skills of a unique workforce. Throughout the years, diversity and inclusion have remained on the forefront of how JCPenney conducts its business.
“At every level, we recognize the value that diverse perspectives bring to JCPenney,” said Myron Ullman, chairman of the board and CEO. “Inclusion and diversity are advantages that allow us to grow our business through our associates. By embracing these principles, we are building a culture that encourages teamwork, innovation, and exceptional performance. This will establish JCPenney as a growth leader in the retail industry.”
The company was recently named number one on DiversityInc’s annual ranking of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity. JCPenney was recognized for its best practices in diversity management, and this was the second year the company was included on the list. Its move from number 11 to number one signified the progress the company has made in recent years to promote a diverse workforce, generate customer loyalty, and foster the growth of diverse supplier relationships.
One of the greatest boons to JCPenney is its focus on brand power. In addition to its numerous private brands (which it develops and sources inhouse), it’s also brought in what it characterizes as destination brands—private, national, and exclusive brands (which account for 50% of its annual sales) such as Allen B., Bisou Bisou, Liz Claiborne/Claiborne, and One Kiss by Cindy Crawford.
In 2010, the company entered into an agreement with beauty company Sephora and brought the iconic brand into its boutiques to further differentiate its customers’ in-store experience. And in addition to its brick and mortar strategy, JCPenney’s online focus has brought it success, with sales through jcp.com reaching $495 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, a 6.7% increase over the previous year.
Ullman said, “Our performance in 2010 reflects the strides we have made to deliver on our operating goals and position JCPenney as a retail industry leader. This was particularly evident in the fourth quarter when the actions we took during the year—including new growth initiatives and improvements across our merchandise assortments, redefining the jcp.com experience, and driving efficiencies across our company—enabled us to achieve sales, marketshare, and profitability growth that surpassed our expectations.”