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Questrom Quells Talk, Penney’s, Dow Tumble

NEW YORK — There was a shakeup in the stock market Wednesday, but J.C. Penney Co. Inc. doesn’t expect a shakeup in its corner office any time soon.<br><br>Rumors that chairman and chief executive Allen Questrom might be leaving his post...

NEW YORK — There was a shakeup in the stock market Wednesday, but J.C. Penney Co. Inc. doesn’t expect a shakeup in its corner office any time soon.

Rumors that chairman and chief executive Allen Questrom might be leaving his post soon helped drive the firm’s shares down 8.8 percent, or $1.55, to $16. Penney’s released a statement in which Questrom asserted: “I am very pleased with the progress the company has made to date, and look forward to completing J.C. Penney’s five-year turnaround strategies.” His statements were drawn from meetings with analysts on Sept. 25.

“Once we have all our systems in place, we will have a better evaluation of what the opportunity is,” said Questrom of the turnaround, currently in its second year. “I would say that if anything, it’s a better opportunity than I thought a year ago.”

While Penney’s took one of the biggest hits, the overall market’s decline on Wednesday was broad enough to affect all of the apparel world.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sunk 2.7 percent, or 219.65 points, to 8,036.03 while the Nasdaq dropped 3.9 percent, or 50.02 points, to end at 1,232.42. The Standard & Poor’s 500 slid 2.4 percent, or 21.21 points, to 860.06, while the S&P Retail Index fell 1.2 percent, or 3.56 points, to 286.69.

The slump broke a four-day winning streak in the broader markets, which saw the blue-chip Dow rally nearly 1,000 points.

Department stores weathering declines included: Dillard’s, down 6.7 percent to $17.71; Sears, Roebuck & Co., 6.7 percent to $33.95; Federated Department Stores, 6 percent to $29.67, and Nordstrom, 5.2 percent to $18.30.

Among the discounters, Target slid 3.9 percent to $30.83, while Wal-Mart managed to pick up 0.8 percent to close at $56.76.

In other Wal-Mart news, the company’s Mexico division, according to wire reports, left the National Association of Supermarkets and Department Stores after the group disallowed its members to compare their prices with those of competitors.

Specialty stores getting beat up in the equity markets included: Chico’s FAS, down 6.8 percent to $17.70; Aeropostale, 6.7 percent to $8.44; Abercrombie & Fitch, 5 percent to $17.76; Charming Shoppes, 5 percent to $4.75, and American Eagle Outfitters, 6 percent to $13.21.

This story first appeared in the October 17, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Fashion vendors taking hits, though generally getting off easier than their retail counterparts, included: Polo Ralph Lauren, off 6.1 percent to $17.70; Coach, 3.9 percent to $27.84; Kellwood, 3.6 percent to $22.08; Tommy Hilfiger, 3.5 percent to $8.56; VF Corp., 2.9 percent to $35.69; Liz Claiborne, 2.4 percent to $27.03, and Jones Apparel Group, 2 percent to $31.70.