Why Does J.C.Penney Have 42 Stores in New York?

Throughout its debt and revenue struggles, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) has closed very few stores. Since the company loses money, it stands to reason that many of its locations cost the retailer large sums to keep open, while others make money. Either J.C. Penney has a secret that the rest of the world cannot comprehend, or the battered retailer has too many stores. What is not as clear is where those stores are.

Throughout most of the period during which Ron Johnson was chief executive, same-store sales and revenue fell over 20% a quarter. J.C. Penney has stabilized that somewhat. Revenue in its first quarter of 2014 reached $2.8 billion, up 6% from the same quarter the year before. However, the retailer could not trim its losses. It lost $352 million in the quarter, about the same as the $348 million it lost in the same period the year before.

J.C. Penney stores across the United States are a patchwork that does not match the distribution of the population. J.C. Penney would seem to be a department store operation with a broad inventory that has almost equal appeal in any part of the country. However, it has 42 stores in New York state and 41 stores in Illinois. On the back of an envelope, the populations of the two states are far enough apart that the store count number does not make sense. New York has over 50% more residents than Illinois. Florida is only slightly smaller than New York. It has 57 stores.

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Either J.C. Penney is more of a regional retailer than it admits, or for some reason it has maintained a chain that matches the map of the American population very little. Some of the locations may be legacies, held over from a time when population patterns were quite different than they are today. If so, J.C. Penney should be under pressure to close many of these stores.

The analysis of store locations and population is crude at best. However, it does beg the question why J.C. Penney has more than 1,000 stores after a period when its revenue fell from $17.3 billion in 2011 to $11.9 billion in 2013. And the revenue probably will not improve much this year.

J.C. Penney has too many stores. But where are they?