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JCPenney is to axe about 1,000 jobs and close 152 stores as the US retail giant proceeds with plans to emerge from both Chapter 11 and the coronavirus pandemic as a smaller, more financially flexible company.

In a statement yesterday (15 July), JCPenney said it is aligning its workforce with its store optimisation strategy and reduced store footprint.

The retailer identified 152 store closures following what it called a comprehensive evaluation of store performance and strategic fit for the company, and said it is having ongoing productive negotiations with landlords.

In connection with this organisational realignment, JCPenney will reduce its workforce across corporate, field management, and international positions.

“Each of these associates has made valuable contributions to the legacy of JCPenney, and we are truly grateful for their service,” said CEO Jill Soltau. “These decisions are always extremely difficult, and I would like to thank these associates for their hard work and dedication. We are committed to supporting them during this period of transition.

“The global health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has forced retailers to make difficult decisions. For JCPenney, that includes reducing our footprint and accelerating our store optimisation strategy while we implement our Plan for Renewal.”

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Soltau added as the retail landscape continues to evolve, JCPenney will continue to make “thoughtful and strategic choices to offer compelling merchandise, drive traffic, deliver an engaging experience, fuel growth, and build a results-minded culture.”

The firm said it will provide a comprehensive benefits package for its departing associates, including severance for eligible associates, healthcare coverage through COBRA for those enrolled in benefits, outplacement support, compensation for unused paid time off, and extended associate discount benefits.

JCPenney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.

The Covid-19 pandemic has weighed heavily on the finances of many apparel retailers over the last three months and has also seen J.Crew Group and US luxury department store retailer Neiman Marcus file for Chapter 11.

Other recent victims include women’s fashion retailer RTW Retailwinds Inc, operator of the New York & Company chain, Brooks Brothers, Lucky Brand and the US operations of G-Star Raw – the last three during the past week alone.