Fresh off an earnings report that included better-than-expected quarterly profit and the closing of 27 more stores, J.C. Penney’s new CEO said she’s confident about the future but concedes, “we need to move faster.”
Jill Soltau’s positive outlook came Thursday when the Plano-based retailer reported fourth-quarter results, filled some key jobs and announced the shuttering of 18 department stores and nine free-standing furniture stores.
Penney did not identify the stores being closed.
“For the past few months, I have met with and listened to J.C. Penney associates throughout the organization, as well as our valued suppliers, customers and other partners, to gain their candid perspectives on our company,” Soltau said.
“Based on everything I have seen and heard, I am even more convinced that J.C. Penney is a revered brand that has the capacity to deliver improved results.”
Soltau, who joined the chain in October, made significant progress on slashing inventories, something she had said she’d tackle first. Inventories fell 13 percent and probably will fall again in the first quarter as kitchen and laundry appliances are sold off.
She’s also discontinued appliances, which only represented 2.7 percent of sales and weren’t profitable, and decided to take furniture out of the 105 stores that still sold it.
Furniture still will be sold online at jcp.com.
Women’s apparel, which had been a drag on the company’s financial results, posted positive same-store sales, and men’s and children’s clothing performed better than the overall store decline.
Fine-jewelry sales have been strong for a while and had a double-digit percentage increase.
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Soltau announced three new executive hires and said she’s still looking for a leader for Penney’s e-commerce business. Penney stopped breaking out its online sales a couple years ago and internally applies those sales to the store nearest the customer.
Penney’s report comes as the retail industry’s fourth-quarter results weren’t all good or all bad. But it proved retailers have to increase sales and not just cut costs to impress investors.
Best Buy and Walmart posted strong holiday quarters.
Same-store sales came up short at Macy’s after a weak December. Macy’s announced a restructuring plan with the goal of saving $100 million a year that includes cutting 100 management jobs — vice presidents or above — to increase decision-making speed.
Home Depot missed expectations and Lowe’s said its mixed results were due to a slow housing market in Canada.