J.C. Penney ($NYSE:JCP) announced that it will close three stores by March, blaming a 3.5% drop in same-store sales during the holiday season. It's the latest retailer to feel the squeeze of the "retail apocalypse." These closure come while Sears, a long-standing direct rival in the retail space, becomes a husk of its former self.
At one point in its history, J.C. Penney had over 1,100 stores across all 50 states and Puerto Rico, but several waves of closures between 2015 and today caused the company to shrink its footprint by one-fifth.
When J.C. Penney made its store closure announcement on January 9, 2019, it did not reveal the locations of the closed stores. But by looking at proximity data — both to itself and where its competitors closed stores — and where it has stopped listing jobs, we can begin to predict where J.C. Penney will leave by March.
Note: Everything past this point is based on speculation through data taken from J.C. Penney's store data and other sources.
Stores in close proximity
First, a look at J.C. Penney stores that are within close proximity to each other. When Mattress Firm decided to close stores, it looked at locations that were close to one other, such as in Illinois where 69% of its stores were within a one-mile radius of each other.
According to our database, there are zero open J.C. Penney stores that meet "Mattress Firm syndrome;" none are within a one-mile radius of one other. In fact, the closest crow-flies distance between two J.C. Penney stores is 2.18 miles in the San Diego metro area.
|Street||City||State||J.C. Penney Location Name||Distance to Next Closest JC Penney (in Miles)|
|3040 Plaza Bonita Rd||National City||CA||Plaza Bonita||2.18|
|591 Broadway||Chula Vista||CA||Chula Vista S/C||2.18|
|100 W 32nd St||New York||NY||Manhattan Mall||3.07|
|10 Mall Dr W||Jersey City||NJ||Newport Ctr||3.07|
|6931 S Memorial Dr||Tulsa||OK||Woodland Hills Mall||3.57|
|4101 S Yale Ave||Tulsa||OK||Tulsa Promenade||3.57|
|3650 New Center Pt||Colorado Springs||CO||First & Main Town Ct||3.67|
|680 Citadel Dr E||Colorado Springs||CO||The Citadel||3.67|
|63 Serramonte Ctr||Daly City||CA||Serramonte Ctr||3.78|
|1122 El Camino Real||San Bruno||CA||Tanforan S/C||3.78|
Of course, there are other department stores — past and present — that set up shop next to J.C. Penney, but met their demise sooner than the place where there is "Style and Value for All."
Closed Macy's vs. J.C. Penney Locations
Looking at retailers that shuttered completely — Sears and Bon-Ton — isn't as helpful when comparing their closed store footprints to that of J.C. Penney's current one. They were much too big, they failed completely, and no longer exist.
Rather than look at the shell of Sears or the bones of Bon-Ton, the current state of Macy's ($NYSE:M) is one to explore. In Q3 2018, Macy's reported that it had 652 Macy's department stores across America. Since we started tracking Macy's in April 2017, we've seen 95 URLs to store locations delisted, indicating that those locations were closed.
Among those 95 stores, here are the ten that are closest to existing J.C. Penney stores:
|Street||City||State||Distance to Next Closest JC Penney (in Miles)|
|3515 E. State Street||Hermitage||PA||0.06|
|237 Woodbridge Center Dr||Woodbridge Township||NJ||0.09|
|3700 Atlanta Highway Georgia Square Mall||Athens||GA||0.10|
|601 Harry L Drive||Johnson City||NY||0.10|
|801 North Central Expressway||Plano||TX||0.10|
|8201 South Tamiami Trail||Sarasota||FL||0.10|
|11001 Carolina Place Pkwy.||Pineville||NC||0.10|
|183 Pavilions Drive||Manchester||CT||0.10|
|801 N. Congress Avenue||Boynton Beach||FL||0.10|
|575 Union Street||Waterbury||CT||0.10|
Most of these locations are in malls, where two department stores could be competing for the same customers within 500 feet of each other.
This alone may not give an idea of where J.C. Penney will close, but its job listings data might.
J.C. Penney Job Listings
J.C. Penney hiring has ebbed and flowed over the past 9 months, with the company experiencing a slight post-holiday hiring drop according to the number of job listings on its careers platform.
Today, J.C. Penney has been hiring for positions in over 800 cities, which isn't a surprise given its reach. Through that data captured for months, we can compare where job openings were several months ago during a peak hiring period, and compare them where they are now in order to find a pattern with locations that have less listings.
With that in mind, here were the cities with the biggest drop in job openings since November 13, 2018, which was when hiring was peaking for the season.
|Myrtle Beach||South Carolina||18||12||-6|
Here were the changes in hiring between the cities that either had a Macy's that shut down nearby, or that make our closest proximity list:
|Johnson City||New York||5||4||-1|
|New York||New York||12||11||-1|
|Jersey City||New Jersey||9||9||0|
Could it only be three store closures in 2019? Or just for the Spring?
If one were to jump to conclusions, one would see Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, as a potential site for closure. Or one could point to Houston, Texas, where J.C. Penney has the second-most stores in a single city with 4 locations and 12 job openings dropped in two months, as a place to watch for movement. Or one would see that the Daly City and San Bruno, California locations are within a four-mile radius of each other and saw a net job opening decrease of 5 over the past two months.
In any case, fitting the closures down to three locations may not be necessary; analysts are saying that the department store will have to close 20-100 stores to get a healthier portfolio.
As always, we'll keep an eye on these current trends to see where J.C. Penney decides to shut down stores... And how many they actually shut down in 2019.