J.C. Penney saw its net loss grow to $154 million in the first quarter ended May 4, from a loss of $78 million in the year-ago quarter.

Comparable sales decreased 5.5 percent.

The exit of the major appliance and in-store furniture categories in the first quarter had a combined negative impact of 20 basis points to comparable sales.

Total net sales decreased 5.6 percent to $2.44 billion compared to $2.58 billion for the year-ago quarter.

Fine jewelry, children’s, women’s and men’s apparel were the top-performing categories during the quarter.

“I am pleased with the strides we’ve made in setting key objectives, building our senior leadership team, executing significant changes in our assortment, such as eliminating major appliances, and mobilizing the entire organization around our priorities,” said chief executive officer Jill Soltau. “We have made good progress on each of our immediate action steps highlighted last quarter, including our continued efforts to reduce and enhance our inventory position, which resulted in a 16 percent reduction in our inventory and a meaningful improvement in our free cash flow this quarter.  As our inventory rationalization effort continues, we are testing a number of strategies around optimal inventory levels and assortment choice counts with a goal of delivering an improved experience for our customers and maximizing our return on investment.”

Soltau said the company is “working to reestablish the fundamentals of retail and at the same time, we are building capabilities to satisfy the wants and expectations of our customers.”

She added that efforts are focused around two parallel paths. “First, we are continuing to map out a comprehensive long-term strategy for J.C. Penney, which we look forward to sharing in the coming months. Second, we are working quickly to build a talented and accomplished team of retail experts.”

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