"First" JCPenney Catalog

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"First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by jleyerle » 24 Apr 2021 09:20

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

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Re: "First" JCPenney Catalog

Post by rich » 01 May 2021 08:25

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.

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