JC Penney says holiday same-store sales fell 7.5%, reaffirms outlook for the year


Employees assist customers at the checkout counter of a J.C. Penney store.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The announcement follows one from rival Macy’s a day earlier, in which Macy’s said its holiday same-store sales dropped 0.6%. The decline wasn’t as bad as many had feared, sending Macy’s shares higher on the news. CEO Jeff Gennette said Macy’s saw “a strong trend improvement from the third quarter,” igniting some optimism for the retailer’s turnaround plans.

Still, on the whole, department stores are expected to have underperformed during the 2019 holiday season.

The category of retailers that includes Penney, Macy’s, and Nordstrom, saw overall sales decline 1.8% from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse, which tracked retail spending across all payment methods.

More shoppers are expected to have turned to retailers like Target and Walmart — which aren’t at traditional malls — for apparel, electronics, and other gifts. Many rung up purchases on Amazon as well. The e-commerce giant has already claimed 2019 was a record holiday.

Penney reported a narrower-than-expected loss during its latest fiscal quarter, ahead of the holidays. But sales declines are still steep. Penney hasn’t reported a quarterly sales gain since the 2017 holiday season. The company has been calling for sales to be down 7% to 8% in fiscal 2019.

The Plano, Texas-headquartered department store chain knows it has work to do to get back to growth. Analysts say one of the biggest overhangs for the embattled, 117-year-old company remains its real estate. Penney has more than 800 locations – arguably far too many, as more people turn to the internet to shop.

Penney CEO Jill Soltau told analysts in November: “I have not given any direction on what we’re doing with our [store] fleet closing or keeping open. … All I’ve said is that we are very close to our physical fleet and understanding what each store is contributing to the total business, as it relates to driving traffic.”

Penney shares, which closed Wednesday at $1.20, have dropped less than 1% over the past 12 months. The company has a market value of $384.0 million.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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