J.C. Penney reports first holiday season sales growth since 2011

J.C. Penney Co., the retailer attempting a return to glory using deep discounts and Super Bowl tweets typed with mittens, said its holiday sales grew last year for the first time since 2011.

The Plano, Texas, company said sales at stores open at least a year were up 3.1% during the all-important nine weeks of the holiday season, compared with the same period in 2012.

For the full fiscal fourth quarter, which ended on Feb. 1, so-called same store sales were up 2%. The chain suffered a 32% plunge in same-store sales during the same quarter a year earlier.

In morning trading in New York, J.C. Penney stock was down 4%, or 23 cents, to $5.45 a share. The stock is down more than 71% from its year-earlier point.


The company’s “turnaround is on track,” said Chief Executive Myron Ullman in a statement Tuesday. J.C. Penney had to push through “a lot of change and challenges” “and “significant head winds,” including record-breaking bad weather this winter, he said.

Ullman has only held the retailer’s top post since April, when he resumed the role after a not-quite-two-year run by Apple alum Ron Johnson ended in upheaval and a slumping stock price.

Since then, Ullman has returned J.C. Penney to its earlier strategy of deep discounting and promotion of private labels. During the fourth quarter, categories such as beauty, dresses, luggage and household goods sold well, the company said.

The marketing team has also tried to give J.C. Penney more personality and a fresher image. During the Super Bowl on Sunday, J.C. Penney sent out garbled tweets on its company account before revealing that the posts had been typed with mittens, sparking heated public discussion about the tactic’s effectiveness with consumers.

Online sales at surged 26.3% over the year-earlier quarter and the company said it closed its fiscal year with more than $2 billion in liquidity.

Last month, the retailer said it would close 33 stores and cut 2,000 jobs by the middle of the year in an attempt to save $65 million a year.


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