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J.C. Penney getting out of the home appliance business

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J.C. Penny Appliances

The appliance section is shown at the J.C. Penney store at Gateway Mall shortly after it opened in 2016. The company on Wednesday announced that it will stop selling appliances and furniture at the end of the month.

J.C. Penney confirmed that it has decided to exit the major home appliance business on Feb. 28 and may reduce store space in the process.

The decision by CEO Jill Soltau will unravel a large initiative of her predecessor Marvin Ellison, who left Penney last May to become CEO at Lowe's home improvement chain.

By removing appliances from 600 home departments, Penney said in a statement that it expects "to better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance and drive profitable growth."

The home department reorganization involves more than washing machines and refrigerators.

Furniture, which is now in 105 stores, will only be available on jcp.com and some stores in Puerto Rico. Mattress departments, which were also added and reconfigured with the appliance rollout, will remain in 450 stores and online, said Penney spokeswoman Daphne Avila.

According to the J.C. Penney website, the store at Gateway Mall in Lincoln sells both appliances and furniture.

The decision also reduces inventory, which Soltau has said is an area she is working on and gives stores the space to "create an enhanced shopping experience that inspires repeat shopping trips," Penney said in a statement.

"Optimizing the allocation of store space will enable us to prioritize and focus on the company's legacy strengths in apparel and soft home furnishings, which represent higher margin opportunity," Penney said.

Penney's appliance showrooms vary in space from 1,000-to-4,800 square feet and furniture sections take up about 4,000 square feet, Avila said. Some of that space may be closed off in the reconfigurations that will vary, she said.

Ellison added major kitchen and laundry appliances in Penney's home departments in 2016 after testing it in three markets. It was a bet that shoppers in malls where Sears stores were closing would turn to Penney, particularly those who needed credit to make an often unexpected big-ticket purchase.

Penney operates 860 stores and may announce additional store closings when it reports year-end results at the end of the month.

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