J.C. Penney employee says Early location to close in June


EARLY, Texas - J.C. Penney is expected to release a list of closures it's planning as part of a strategy announced last month to shrink its retail stores, and the store inside the Heartland Mall in Early is on the chopping block.

An employee who wished to remain anonymous told KTXS that executives from J.C. Penney visited the Early location on Tuesday. They notified the store manager of the closing, and the manager told nearly 30 employees about corporate's decision on Wednesday.

But the city of Early is determined to stop the bleeding of sales tax revenues after news of the closure leaked.

"We hope that it doesn't happen." Director of Economic Development Larry McConn said on Thursday. "It is a staple of the mall and it's been with the mall a long time."

McConn said the store hasn't notified the city of the closure.

"The mall is a focus for us, it is one of the largest square footage areas that Early … and our region has," he said.

Last month, the J.C. Penney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Marvin R. Ellison announced the decision to close 130 to 140 stores. Ellison cited the growing threat coming from online retail.

"Amazon and people like that have moved into that market in a much grander scale," said Brownwood City Councilman Jerry DeHay.

DeHay doesn't believe the trend of online shopping will subside anytime soon.

"It's created an interesting situation and it's one we're going to have face realistically, and do what we can to compete," DeHay said.

J.C. Penney also stated in February the closures will give the company room to redirect its focus to high performing locations.

For now, the city of Early's attention has shifted to helping the mall fill this big void.

"We're going to do everything we can to bring them leads to get new businesses in," McConn said.

KTXS reached out to J.C. Penney for comment, but didn't hear back as of Thursday.

The J.C. Penney employee told KTXS that corporate stated the store will close on June 18.

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