"First" JCPenney Catalog

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jleyerle
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"First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by jleyerle »

Found an interesting site with what I'd guess is the first JCPenney catalogue from 1963 (after they took over General Merchandise of Milwaukee). They were barely integrated, with no apparent crossover between stores and catalogue (the locations listed were old General Merchandise catalogue stores, not catalogue desks at JCP). The credit operations of catalogue were not yet integrated, either.

I'm fascinated with the suburban boom strategies of Sears, Penney and Wards....there was a business case written about JCPenney in 1958 which realize they had to adapt, or die, as their main-street dry goods stores were rapidly being obsoleted by the march to the suburbs. Right after that they went into credit; In about 1960 they decided they needed to go into malls; they then bought General Merchandise to get both a catalogue and some hard-goods expertise (as you see in the catalogue--that is what they stocked the big stores with).

We were a Sears household, with the 1963-ish mall JCPenney about 10 miles away where the 1957-ish Sears was in Crestwood Plaza about 1/2 mile away.

https://christmas.musetechnical.com/Sho ... er-Catalog
rich
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Re: "First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by rich »

Penney's was the subject of a case study at Harvard business school in 1958. Ironically, the push into hardlines didn't last long and although their catalog outlasted Sears, it was really their old, core business that outlasted Sears and Wards.

Penney's already was rapidly opening stores in suburban shopping centers before 1958, including the "regional" shopping centers of the day. This brought them into metro areas where they previously had not had stores. In Cleveland, where they'd never had stores previously, they went into Southgate (the largest center in the area for many years which also had Sears and Wm Taylor Sons/May Co) and Eastgate during the mid-50s and Southgate would have been considered the equivalent of a mall. They also went into some urban downtowns in the 40s and 50s including Cincinnati (where the lack of success downtown kept them from building in the 'burbs for many years).

The small town stores were run as a somewhat separate operation for many years---they ran a different ad and the merchandise mix was a little different from even their metro dry goods locations. They did this where these small town downtown stores were less than an hour away from mall stores. Yet, they had quite a few small town locations, including some in downtowns, until recently.

Wards had had very conservative fiscal management for many years and was playing catch-up in the 50s; they never really caught-up with their stores. They wound up in second string shopping centers and had an odd geographic footprint that skipped over metro areas that seemed like logical next steps for them. Penney's already was establishing itself as a tenant for major shopping center developers in the 50s and opened some large stores like Southgate (noted above) that were big enough to be converted into full-line locations later on. It would be interesting to see if Wards was considered a serious competitor or an example of what Penney should have avoided.
Jason B.
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Re: "First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by Jason B. »

J.C. Penney opened a "main street" downtown store in Livermore, California (now an eastern suburb of San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose) circa 1930 (building now occupied by Baughman's, a western apparel store). Circa 1960, J.C. Penney moved to a new building at 2nd and M streets. It also was a downtown "main street" type of store. It had a giant photo of James Cash Penney hanging over its front door. That store lasted until 1995, when J.C. Penney left Livermore. A large shopping mall "anchor" J.C. Penney store opened in nearby Pleasanton (Stoneridge Mall) in 1980. What probably was the "death knell" of the Livermore J.C. Penney was the opening of Wal Mart, Mervyn's and Target stores, all in 1993, away from downtown, along I-580 freeway.

Concerning the growth of Montgomery Ward post-World War II, I've read that Montgomery Ward was slow at opening suburban locations in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. A Montgomery Ward store opened in late 1962 in Pleasant Hill, California (central Contra Costa County). I believe that the CEO of Montgomery Ward was present for the grand opening as that store was seen as some sort of "model" store for the chain's belated suburban expansion.
jleyerle
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Re: "First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by jleyerle »

Wards actually shrank their store base in the '50s...their management was convinced of a post-war depression, so hoarded cash. They expanded in suburban clusters in the early 60s around their mail order warehouses, which resulted them missing other metros entirely (they had a couple catalogue stores in suburban St. Louis, though were in retail stores in both Chicago and Kansas City). They ended up in secondary/tertiary malls with that reluctance to expand. Sears always had first-dibs at any given mall location, Penneys second dibs and Wards third dibs.
Super S
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Re: "First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by Super S »

JCPenney in the 1950s and 1960s was very much in tune with changing shopping habits, and often jumped from downtown locations to malls at the earliest opportunity. With that said, there were exceptions.

In Longview, WA, Montgomery Ward left downtown in the early 1960s and built a store at Longview's Triangle Center, which became an enclosed mall at some time in the 1970s. (it became an open-air strip mall in the early 2000s) This mall was only a few blocks from the downtown Sears and JCPenney stores. It was 20+ more years before Sears and JCPenney left downtown for the new Three Rivers Mall in nearby Kelso. JCPenney actually had a small store in downtown Kelso at one point (the building burned down years ago), I am unclear if this closed at the same time as the downtown Longview store though.

Regarding Wards, their coverage was VERY spotty. At least on the western side, Wards did not operate full-line stores any further north than Longview to the best of my knowledge, avoiding the Seattle area. Wards also had a weak presence in states such as Idaho. JCPenney on the other hand was in every state, often starting in smaller towns.
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