J.C. Penney said Monday that this week it will reopen its Joplin store, which had temporarily closed because of the pandemic.
The announcement came amid the company's bankruptcy filing and news that 30% of the stores in the chain would close over the next two years. There was no announcement about the long-term viability of the Joplin store in Northpark Mall and whether it might be included in the next round of store closings.
“Our top priority remains the health and safety of our associates, customers and communities,” Jim DePaul, executive vice president of stores at J.C. Penney, said in a statement. “We want to ensure everyone is safe and feels comfortable as we continue to provide an engaging shopping experience.”
Some J.C. Penney stores in Missouri are opening for contact-free curbside pickup only, but several stores, including Joplin's, will be open from noon to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. More than 100 are reopening nationwide.
Masks are to be provided to each associate, there will be plexiglass shields at the register and additional sanitizing steps.
J.C. Penney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday. As part of its reorganization, the 118-year-old company also announced store closings, beginning with 192 in 2021 and 50 stores the year after that.
The company currently has about 846 stores, and the planned closing would affect about 30% of the stores.
Asked if the Joplin reopening was a signal that the Northpark Mall store was not one of those projected to close, Dionne Martin, spokesperson for the retailer, told the Globe on Monday, "I wouldn't assume anything. It's all a strategic process and there's a lot that will go into the decision."
Several store officials also said Monday the company has not released a list yet.
"It is still early in the process, and we don’t have a list to share of the stores impacted by the restructuring," the company told the Globe in a statement.
Penney is the biggest retailer to file for bankruptcy reorganization since the pandemic and joins luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and Stage Stores. Other retailers are expected to follow as business shutdowns across the country have evaporated sales.
U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April.
“The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our families, our loved ones, our communities and our country," Penney's CEO Jill Soltau said in a statement. “As a result, the American retail industry has experienced a profoundly different new reality, requiring J.C. Penney to make difficult decisions in running our business to protect the safety of our associates and customers and the future of our company."
Penney said that it has $500 million in cash on hand and has received commitments of $900 million in financing to help it operate during the restructuring. It said that it will be looking at different options, including the sale of the company.
Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm, predicted in a report last month that more than 50% of all mall-based department stores will close by the end of 2021. It expects that Penney will eventually liquidate its business, noting that a smaller company won't solve its main problems.
Like Sears, J.C. Penney’s troubles were years in the making, marking a slow decline from its glory days during the 1960s through 1980s when it became a key shopping destination at malls for families. The Sears store at Northpark Mall closed in February.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.