Financial Performance

J.C. Penney Shares Dive on Q4 Sales Miss

The retailer's results were sharply lower than rivals Macy's and Kohl's, and a downbeat full-year profit forecast added to investors' concerns.
Matthew HellerMarch 2, 2018

J.C. Penney shares fell more than 5% on Friday as it reported lower-than-expected quarterly same-store sales growth amid weak demand for apparel and fierce online competition.

A downbeat full-year profit forecast added to investors’ concerns even though adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 57 cents per share beat estimates of 47 cents.

Hugh Tallents, partner at the management consultancy cg42, said investors likely compared the strategies of retailers such as Best Buy and Nordstrom who also reported their earnings this week, and found J.C. Penney’s lacking.

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“They’re all trying to get toward … a better blend between a physical and digital experience,” he told USA Today, “and analysts are looking at J.C. Penney as a laggard in the innovation of experience.”

Like many retailers, Penney had a solid holiday season, with comparable store sales, a key retail metric, rising 2.6% during the final months of 2017. Total net sales increased 1.8 % to $4.03 billion over the year-ago period.

But analysts had predicted a 2.9% gain in same-store sales and revenue of $4.05 billion. In trading Friday, J.C. Penney shares dropped 5.3% to $3.71.

As Reuters reports, the company is nearing the end of a years-long turnaround plan that has included closing unprofitable stores, liquidating excess apparel inventory, and growing its private-label lines. In the third quarter, CNBC said, “those investments appeared to be paying off, as Penney’s same-store sales climbed nearly 2 percent ahead of the holidays, surpassing analysts’ expectations.”

“On Friday, though, investors feared Penney’s latest successes could be waning,” CNBC added. “Its quarterly results were sharply lower than stronger reports this week from rivals Macy’s and Kohl’s, and its outlook for the current year was troubling.”

For 2018, Penney said it expects to earn 5 cents to 25 cents per share, largely below analysts’ average expectation of 20 cents.

“We want to get into a habit of under-promising and over-delivering,” CEO Marvin Ellison said on an earnigs, telling analysts he expected better margins in 2018. He said Penney would gain market share this year from struggling rivals closing stores.