Local J.C. Penney stores

wait for word on future

In an attempt to restructure the corporation after a fourth quarter net loss of 8 cents per share and to save $530 million, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. plans to close 40 to 45 department stores and about 300 Eckerd drug stores nationwide.

Several Eckerd drug stores in the Monmouth-Middlesex region have already been targeted for closure. Information on which J.C. Penney department stores are to close is expected to be made public in a matter of weeks.

"A total of 40 to 50 department stores will be closing and about 300 Eckerd drug stores will also close," said Stephanie Brown, spokeswoman for J.C. Penney, Plano, Texas. "During the next two weeks the public will find out which stores will close."

James E. Oesterreicher, chairman and CEO, said in a news release, "Improving the profitability of our core department store and drug store businesses is our top priority and has caused us to take a hard look at department stores and drug stores that are under-performing and lack future strategic fit."

At three J.C. Penney stores in the region — Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold Township, Brunswick Square Mall, East Brunswick, and Monmouth Mall, Eatontown — employees are awaiting word from corporate directors.

Jim Adams, assistant store manager at Freehold Raceway Mall, said he does not believe his store will be closing.

Arthur Kondrup, president of the Western Monmouth Chamber of Commerce, Freehold, said he believes the Freehold J.C. Penney is doing well and said he’d had no indication from mall management that a closing is imminent.

"You know as much as I do," said Dick Ackerman, store manager of the J.C. Penney at Brunswick Square Mall. "We have been told nothing. I read (it) in the paper. All I know is what the press releases say."

Barry Morman, store manager at the Monmouth Mall J.C. Penney, referred calls to the firm’s corporate headquarters.

At the Eckerd drug store on Tennent Road and Route 9, Manalapan, Rocco Letizia, store manager, said he did not know much about the situation and said he had not received any information from corporate executives.

A manager at the Eckerd drug store at School Road West and Route 79, Marlboro, referred calls to corporate offices.

As of press time, the following Eckerd drug stores in the region have been identified as stores to be closed:

• 8 S. Main St., Marlboro

• 477 Route 35, Red Bank

• 877 Main St., Belford section of Middletown

• 570 Broad St., Shrewsbury

• 3311 Route 9, Old Bridge

• 3574 Route 27, Kendall Park section of South Brunswick.

Other Eckerd stores throughout the state are also expected to be closed.

The chain of stores began in 1898 when J. Milton Eckerd used $600 to open his first cut-rate drug store in Erie, Pa.