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Penney's to drop hard goods

Lawn mowers are out, but microwaves are in. That's the latest word from J. C. Penney Company Inc., which has announced a major modernization of its stores and a shift in the products the company's stocks. The changes, which will cost Penney $1 billion over the next five years, will also result in some 8,000 employees losing their jobs as the company closes its automotive centers and phases out many product lines.

The company will also discontinue it own service organization to repair appliances and will utilize the national network of RCA Corporation and General Electric Company. Some 500 people who currently work for the company in product service will be transferred to other service jobs at RCA, GE, or J. C. Penney.

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Penney's new mix will place an emphasis on family apparel, leisure products, and soft home furnishings such as pillows and blankets. The company said it will discontinue selling major appliances, paint, hardware, lawn and garden merchandise, and fabrics. According to Donald V. Seibert, chairman and chief executive officer, the company's goal is to ''provide (customers) with a shopping environment that is visually exciting and organized.''

The move by Penney, represents a repositioning which takes it back to what the stores were like in the 1950s. At that point it stocked mainly soft goods. In the 1960s, however, it added many of the hard lines it currently is eliminating.

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