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Andrea Felsted

J.C. Penney Bankruptcy May Not Buy Enough Time

A financial restructuring isn’t a panacea for a retailer that was struggling for relevance long before the pandemic.

A financial lifeline doesn’t guarantee a revival for J.C. Penney.

A financial lifeline doesn’t guarantee a revival for J.C. Penney.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

When research firm GlobalData surveyed Americans on which stores they were most looking forward to visiting once the Covid-19 pandemic subsided, one household name came out near the bottom, and well below its department-store peers: J.C. Penney. That helps to explain Friday’s late news that the retailer — which began life in 1902 as a store called The Golden Rule — filed for bankruptcy protection. Pushed to the brink by the coronavirus shutdowns, J.C. Penney Co. was seemingly left with no other choice. But years of struggle and strategic missteps had laid the groundwork.

After securing $900 million of financing, J.C. Penney will stay open for now, and its next steps include closing some stores, cutting its debt by several billion dollars and looking at alternatives including a sale. Despite those planned survival efforts, it’s hard to see J.C. Penney having a vibrant future.