J.C. Penney to close call center, 252 layoffs

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - J.C. Penney deals a blow to Chesterfield with a decision to close its longstanding catalog center. More than 250 employees will soon be laid off.

If you ever made a J.C. Penney catalog order, there's a good chance it went to the telemarketing center on Alverser Drive. It's been open since 1986 - one of just five run by the company in America. But it's closing soon, primarily because these days there are fewer calls. More shoppers are using the store's Web site.

"It's convenient, then. You're looking at the products, you may as well place the order," said Dr. Robert Trumble, a professor at the VCU School of Business.

To industry watchers, the move is not surprising. Younger shoppers are increasingly unfamiliar with the outdated catalog service. So the call center will close, beginning in late March. 252 workers will be laid off.

The employees are mostly part-time, which may make it easier for them to find work in this  economy.

"You don't have people with high salaries. So they have a better likelihood of finding comparable salaries and comparable work conditions," Trumble said.

A company spokesperson added that the workers, "May be considered for openings at J.C. Penney stores, based on their qualifications." But even that's not a guaranteed safety net. Like many businesses, retailers are struggling. Experts predict legendary names like J.C. Penney will eventually invest even more money online rather than in the stores.

"I think they will move to more online, it's less expensive for them to offer products in that fashion," Trumble said.

Layoffs begin March 26, with the workers permanently separated from J.C. Penney by April 9. Customer Service and catalog calls will then automatically be routed to one of the company's four other telemarketing centers in the United States.

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