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JCPENNEY RETURNS TO ITS "ROOTS" FOR ANNUAL MEETING; COMPANY STRONGER THAN PRIOR TO RECESSION; ONE OF THE COMPANY'S FIRST CUSTOMERS HONORED

JCPENNEY RETURNS TO ITS "ROOTS" FOR ANNUAL MEETING; COMPANY STRONGER THAN PRIOR TO RECESSION; ONE OF THE COMPANY'S FIRST CUSTOMERS HONORED
 Kemmerer, Wy, May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Several hundred JCPenney stockholders, associates, and friends arrived today in the small mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, to attend JCPenney's annual meeting and celebrate the founding of the company 90 years ago.
 In addressing the meeting at Kemmerer's Senior High School, William R. Howell, chairman of J. C. Penney Company, Inc., (NYSE: JCP) said: "We have returned to Kemmerer to honor and commemorate our founder, James Cash Penney. It was in this community that Mr. Penney established his first store and adopted the four principles on which our company was founded: honor, confidence, service, and cooperation.
 "We have come here to renew that sense of vigor and freshness Mr. Penney displayed in every aspect of his life and to be in touch with our roots in a very real way. We know we will leave here inspired with a fresh sense of determination to take our company in the next century at least as far as we've come since Mr. Penney opened for business in 1902."
 Among the highlights of the occasion was Howell's introduction of a very special guest, Mrs. Mary Morris Dale from Salt Lake City, one of the company's very first customers. Now 95 years old, she recalls being at the grand opening of Penney's small dry-goods store called The Golden Rule in 1902, an occasion when "everyone in town was there." She was five years old and lived with her grandparents in Kemmerer.
 During the business portion of the meeting Howell acknowledged that 1991 presented a very challenging operating environment for the retail industry, and for department stores in particular.
 "Consumers have become more thrifty in the 90s for a lot of good reasons but primarily as a result of increased economic concerns," he said. "In response we have fine-tuned our merchandise assortments; made significant adjustments in our pricing; and placed greater emphasis on key, best selling items. These programs have taken hold. Store unit sales have improved sharply. This positive trend can be seen in each of our merchandise divisions - women's; men's; children's; and home. Unit sales by division in the first quarter were all up, ranging from 16 per cent to 24 per cent. This is another strong indication that our price adjustments are attracting consumers, and traffic is picking up in our stores."
 Howell credited both the improved economy and steps the company has taken to provide value-oriented merchandise for the positive first quarter results. Net income for the quarter was $136 million or $1.04 per share, an increase of 70.1 per cent from $80 million, or 61 cents per share, in the same 1991 period.
 "A major challenge is to communicate to consumers the extensive changes that we have made and continue to make in the stores and to our merchandise assortments," Howell said, "In response to this challenge, we have created a new communications program in partnership with our advertising agency, Bozell Southwest, designed to generate traffic and build sales. The program underscores our rich heritage of value, which surveys show is one of JCPenney's greatest strengths."
 In addition to efforts to communicate more effectively, the company is intent on keeping it's stores fresh and up-to-date. It will spend nearly $100 million this year on updating and modernizing stores. This will be ongoing process that will continue each year.
 In commenting on other aspects of the company's business, Howell noted that Catalog too had adjusted its mix to better target today's more value-conscious shoppers, and the strategy had begun to produce positive results. Life and health insurance, banking, and real estate continued to perform well, recording strong profit gains in first quarter.
 "From a financial perspective, our balance sheet and cash flow remain strong," Howell said. "We have corrected or discontinued a number of areas that were not performing up to company standards or were negatively impacting our bottom line. In short, we have strengthened our company by streamlining operations and are a much stronger company than we were prior to the recession. We see this strength continuing throughout the year, and anticipate that 1992 will be a good year for the company."
 -0- 5/14/92
 /CONTACT: Duncan Muir of JCPenney, 214-591-1329.
 (JCP) CO: J.C. Penney Company, Inc. ST: Texas IN: REA SU:


LR -- NY086 -- 0294 05/14/92 13:51 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 14, 1992
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