J. C. Penney Co.’s first-quarter earnings dropped 49.6 percent and the retailer said it would take “appropriate pricing actions” to move goods and reduce future orders to align inventory with its expected sales.

Income for three months ended May 3 fell to $120 million, or 54 cents a share, on a 5.1 percent drop in sales to $4.13 billion.

“We will continue to take the necessary actions to align our business plans with the expectation that conditions will remain difficult for the remainder of 2008,” said Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chairman and chief executive officer. “Inventory will be managed through appropriate pricing actions on existing merchandise and by reducing our future merchandise commitments to better balance our inventory position with expected sales levels.”

Penney’s expects second-quarter earnings of 38 cents a share, down from 81 cents a year ago. Sales are slated to decrease by a percentage in the low-single digits.

For complete coverage, see Friday’s issue of WWD.

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