JC Penney ready to reopen

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 28, 2008

ASHLAND, Ky. — JC Penney has come a long way from the dry goods store its eponymous founder started in 1902.

Then James Cash Penney started out in a store in Kemmerer, Wyo., which still operates today. Seven years later, he moved his headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1914, he moved again to Buffalo, N.Y.

Today the name Penney’s is synonymous with a mega retail operation, with 1,074 department stores throughout the United States.

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On Aug. 1, a new JC Penney store will open in a freestanding building at the Ashland Town Center, replacing the smaller store inside the Winchester Avenue mall.

With a structure of 104,000 square feet, double the older store, and upscale product lines, management at the new store anticipates luring Ashland and Ironton traffic away from the Barboursville store at the Huntington Mall.

“A lot of folks who live in Ashland tend to shop us during the week,” Store Manager Keith Kinchiner said. “We see a lot of those folks go to Barboursville on the weekends. With this Penney now there is no reason for them to go to Barboursville, Charleston and Lexington.”

Special lures to this store include the popular Sephora beauty line under whose umbrella are found the Philosophy, Murad, Bliss and PerriconeMD brands.

“It is so unique in Ashland. … So many products that benefit in so many ways,” Ruthie White, Sephora Inside JC Penney beauty manager, said.

Another new feature is the Ralph Lauren American Living collection of men’s, women’s and children’s fashion and home.

“It is all designed by the Ralph Lauren Corp., much like Sephora dictates guidelines, so does this,” Kinchiner said. “All the fixtures, paint, it is per them. It is Ralph Lauren paint out there. It is the largest product concept launch in the whole history of JC Penney.”

Add that to a portrait studio, an enlarged jewelry counter and an extensive custom-made and ready-made window treatment department, the JC Penney in Ashland, Ky. in Kinchiner’s words “is stepping up to the plate.”

Getting ready for the big move meant getting rid of all the merchandise in the mall store by calling in outside professional liquidators who know when and how to mark down existing merchandise for sales.

“We took not a piece of merchandise,” the manager said.

It did take on more part-time employees to work for about two months getting the new store stocked. Currently staff level is at 210 with the majority of those part-time workers — many high school and college students.

“We had to stock our store like Christmas in June and July,” Kinchiner said. “We were trying to beef up our staff. Fortunately, we have high schools and colleges, which played in our favor. The kids were excited.”

When the store opens, staff level should drop to 150 with it going back up to 200 during holidays.

This part-time arrangement gives the company and the employees a chance to see if there will be a more permanent relationship in the future for them.

“We can evaluate them and they can decide if this is something they want to do,” the manager said.

The store opened for a soft opening this past Saturday before the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.