J.C. Penney reports another loss in fourth quarter; sales slide 28%

J.C. Penney Co. is falling deeper into a rut, reporting yet another quarter of tanking sales and net loss as the department store chain struggles in its reinvention.

The Plano, Texas, company reported a net loss of $552 million, or $2.51 a share, in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Feb. 2. During the same period a year earlier, it lost $87 million, or 41 cents a share.

Revenue plunged 28.4% to $3.9 billion. Same-store sales, which track revenue at locations open at least a year and are less volatile, plummeted 31.7%. Online sales sank 34.4%.

By comparison, competitor Macy’s earlier this week said its online sales soared 47.7% during its fourth quarter.


Sales and customer traffic fell below expectations during the year, said Ron Johnson, chief executive of J.C. Penney. Gross margin dipped due in part to more sales of clearance merchandise.

But the company, he said, is looking ahead with a new marketing campaign, updated merchandise and more innovations.

“As we execute our ambitious transformation plan, we are pleased with the great strides we made to improve J.C. Penney’s cost structure, technology platforms and the overall customer experience,” he said in a statement.

J.C. Penney has spent the past year trying to find its way as competitors such as Wal-Mart, Sears, Macy’s and Target innovate and poach market share.

The chain, which is pairing with high-end designers such as Nanette Lepore, Georgina Chapman of Marchesa, and Justin Timberlake for William Rast, premiered a series of new ads during the Academy Awards.

A new store format, featuring branded boutiques within its larger layout, hosts popular names such as MNG by Mango and Sephora. The company said it plans to open 20 shops designated for home products in the spring with partners such as Jonathan Adler and Michael Graves.

About 11 million square feet of retail space will be transformed over the season, according to the company.

But the 110-year-old business is also in court fighting Macy’s over domestic doyenne Martha Stewart, whom Macy’s accuses of breaking an exclusive contract in order to also sell products for J.C. Penney.

Layoffs, tanking sales and consumers confused by the disappearance and then re-emergence of discounts are causing intense Wall Street skepticism toward the company.

Revenue declines have deepened throughout the year, tanking 20.1% in the first quarter, then 22.6% in the second and 26.6% in the third. Same-store sales mirrored the trend.


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