J.C. Penney on Friday reported a surprising quarterly decline in same-store sales but said its new appliance departments in 500 stores had fueled improved results in October.
The retailer’s comp sales for the third quarter ended Oct. 29. fell 0.8% after a 6.4% increase in the year-ago period. Wall Street analysts had predicted a 2.7% gain in the latest quarter, according to Consensus Metrix.
Net sales fell 1.4% to $2.86 billion in the quarter, missing expectations of $2.95 billion, while the net loss improved $115 million a year ago to $67 million.
Penney’s shares slumped 9% in premarket trading on news of the earnings, but rallied to close at $9.16, up 4%, as management insisted its turnaround strategy — which includes adding appliances to offset soft apparel sales — is gaining traction.
“The results of these initiatives are reflected in a positive sales comp in the month of October, driven by over 200 basis points of comp benefit from our 500 new appliance showrooms,” CEO Marvin Ellison said in a news release, predicting the improvement would carry over to the balance to the fourth quarter.
“Despite experiencing softness in apparel sales, we are continuing to improve the bottom line of our business,” he added.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, the addition of appliances is “part of a plan by Penney to make itself less dependent on weather-related categories such as apparel and less vulnerable to online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc., since large appliances are more difficult to buy online.”
Penney said the initial rollout of appliances “created disruption that negatively impacted sales” but things settled down in October, with sales of washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers adding about 0.2% to sales growth in the month.
But the company still gets 60% of its revenue from clothes and, according to the WSJ, the drop in same-store sales “was especially disappointing [for Penney] since it had been on an upswing following a disastrous overhaul by previous management that dented sales.”
For the full year, Penney is now predicting comp sales growth of between 1% and 2%, way down from the earlier guidance of 3% to 4%.