Moline J.C. Penney celebrates 100 years as retail industry declines

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MOLINE - The retail business couldn't be more cut throat than it is right now. Nine companies have filed for bankruptcy just this year, at a pace we haven't seen since the great recession in 2009.

However, a bright spot for one company is in Moline.

It's a celebration that's very rare these days when it comes to the retail industry.

J.C. Penney opened its first Illinois store in downtown Moline in 1917 and now its celebrating 100 years in business.

"Actually really exciting considering retail lately, you hear so many bad stories and here we are 100 years later," said General Manager, John Hazlett.

It comes as several retailers see a much different outcome. Gordmans, Payless Shoes and Gander Mountain are filing for bankruptcy, the chains blame competition online.

"Internet shopping is the new way to do things and that`s hurt the mall," said shopper, Jody Longman.

Even J.C. Penney has had its share of struggles. It's closing more than 200 stores this year and cutting more than 5,000 jobs. Somehow the Moline store has survived.

"The prices are good, I like their stuff," said Sharon Ringier, who shops at J.C. Penney.

The company hopes to keep customers loyal by following the online trend.

"Our J.C. Penny app we`ve changed a lot in the past year trying to get feedback from customers and making it much more friendly and they can shop now on their phone," said Hazlett.

The addition of Sephora and a new appliance department gives customers even more options.

"We saw people going online going to and searching for appliances so they saw that and saw there was a need or a want that was part of adding appliances back to J.C. Penny," said Hazlett.

It's securing the store's place at Southpark Mall and surviving even the toughest economic times.

"We`re shooting for another 100 years and I think with a great community around us we`re going to be there," said Hazlett.

The Moline location was one of 50 J.C. Penny stores that opened back in 1917.

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