Factbox: J.C. Penney's history, from "Golden Rule" start to COVID-era bankruptcy

(Reuters) - J.C. Penney Co Inc has a colorful history as one of America’s most recognizable department store chains, but a failure to counter the shift to online shopping hammered its business in recent years, with COVID-19 pandemic finally pushing it to the brink of collapse.

A J.C. Penney Company Inc. store is pictured at a mall in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 17, 2018. REUTERS/Suzanne Barlyn

As its landlords near a deal to rescue the beleaguereddepartment store chain, averting a liquidation that would have threatened roughly 70,000 jobs, here’s a look at some of J.C. Penney’s key moments in the nearly 120 years since its founding.

** J.C. Penney was founded on April 14, 1902 by James Cash Penney when he and two partners opened the Golden Rule dry-goods store in the town of Kemmerer, Wyoming.

** Penney bought out his partners in 1907 and took on new ones, including Earl Corder Sams, who was president of the company from 1914 to 1946.

** The firm was incorporated on Jan. 17, 1913, as the J.C. Penney Stores Company, with 34 stores in the American West. The following year the company’s headquarters was moved to New York City.

** In 1929, J.C. Penney Co became a publicly traded corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

** Founder Penney retired in 1946, taking the title of honorary chairman.

** In 1958, the firm’s traditional strict cash-and-carry policy gave way to selling on credit with the help of store credit cards.

** Around the same time, the company’s focus on apparel was broadened to include a range of hard and soft goods, allowing it to better compete with national department stores such as Sears, Roebuck and Co.

** To gain a foothold in mail-order sales, J.C. Penney bought General Merchandise Co in 1962, with the first Penney Catalog being issued the following year.

** Its overseas operations began in 1968–69, when it acquired Sarma SA, a Belgian retail chain.

** In 1988, the company relocated its headquarters to Plano, Texas.

** J.C. Penney started offering items for sale online in 1994, the same year Inc was founded.

** In 2010, hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP, led by William Ackman, disclosed a 16.5% stake in J.C. Penney. Ackman backed the appointment of Apple Inc retail executive Ron Johnson as CEO in 2011.

** Johnson abandoned coupons and sales events, moves that were met with fierce customer backlash. He was replaced by former CEO Myron ‘Mike’ Ullman in 2013, the same year Ackman sold his stake in the company.

** As more consumers shifted to online shopping, J.C. Penney discontinued its catalogs in 2011. The company brought them back in a thinner version a few years later.

** In 2018, Jill Soltau, took over as the company’s CEO from Marvin Ellison who left to lead Lowe’s Cos Inc. Under her tenure the company stopped selling major appliances, including refrigerators and washing machines, and turned its focus back to apparel as part of a turnaround attempt.

** In May 2020, J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy protection, one of the most significant business collapses following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica,,

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